Sandy disaster aid available from FEMA

Posted: November 01, 2012

Victims of Sandy can start applying today for financial aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

South Jersey residents of Atlantic, Cape May, and Ocean counties are eligible for immediate assistance under President Obama's disaster declaration. Residents of other, undesignated counties may also apply for assistance, and FEMA assessors will determine if they qualify, said FEMA spokesman Matthew Behnke.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

More counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after FEMA's on-the-ground assessments are completed, said Michael J. Hall, the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.

FEMA assistance is not to duplicate private insurance, and residents are expected to file appropriate claims with their insurance carriers, Behnke said.

Apply for FEMA assistance by phone, on the Web, or by smartphone:

On the Web, www.disasterassistance.gov/

Call (800) 621-3362. People with speech or hearing disabilities may call TTY (800) 462-7585.

Apply via smartphone at m.fema.gov

FEMA will also set up disaster recovery centers in South Jersey where applicants can go for information about assistance. The locations for those centers will be determined soon, Behnke said.

After a resident applies for assistance, a FEMA inspector will be assigned to assess the damage and determine what assistance the resident qualifies for. Then a check can be issued, or in the case of business owners, a referral made to the Small Business Administration for low-interest loan assistance.

These are the kinds of assistance FEMA and other federal agencies can supply:

-- Rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable. Initial assistance may be provided for up to three months for homeowners and at least one month for renters. Assistance may be extended if requested after the initial period based on a review of individual applicant requirements.

-- Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary, and functional.

-- Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs.

-- Unemployment payments up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed individuals.

-- Low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance. Loans are available up to $200,000 for the primary residence and $40,000 for personal property, including renter losses. Loans are available up to $2 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance.

-- Loans up to $2 million for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private, nonprofit organizations of all sizes that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster's adverse economic impact. This loan, in combination with a property loss loan, cannot exceed a total of $2 million.

-- Loans up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers, and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence.


Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com

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