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The New Disaster Relief Handbook
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TOP TEN TIPS
Top Ten Tips for a Successful Disaster Recovery
Part A: Applying for Assistance
Part B: Preparing for the Inspection
Part C: Managing the Inspection
PART A: APPLYING FOR ASSISTANCE
Did you know? . . To make application for federal and state disaster assistance, all disaster victims should first call the FEMA TELEREGISTRATION HOTLINE at 800-462-9029; (TDD 800-462-7585). If yours is a big disaster, please be patient; the lines may be busy.
- Before you call - be prepared to furnish the teleregistration interviewer with backup phone numbers (i.e. work, relatives, friends, and neighbors) so that the FEMA housing inspector assigned to your case can contact you when needed. If you live in a rural area you will need to give the interviewer easy-to-follow directions to your damaged dwelling (start from the nearest town or major intersection).
- Before you hang up - have the teleregistration interviewer read back to you your name, address and phone number(s). The inspector has a large caseload and hard-to-find disaster victims can sometimes face major delays. Once erroneous information goes into the FEMA computer system, it can be a problem to rectify. Make sure your vital statistics are entered correctly.
PART B: PREPARING FOR THE INSPECTION
Did you know? . . The disaster assistance application that you phone in to FEMA Teleregistration is computerized and downloaded that very evening to an working inspector assigned to your area. That's why we say . . .
- FEMA can move fast - be prepared. Once you apply for assistance, your computerized application is quickly assigned to an contracting FEMA housing inspector. He will usually try and call you to set up an appointment to meet you at your "damaged dwelling." Sometimes though, if he's working in your area, he may stop by without calling first. He may even come the very next day after you apply.
- Know your damages. Make specific lists if you can. Itemize personal property on a room-by-room basis. Itemize structural damage by category - foundation, roof, carpets, etc. And take photos of damage before you clean up or repair it.
- Document your disaster-related expenses. Save your repair receipts, motel bills, and so on. The inspector may not ask to see them, but you could need them if you are reinspected (QC'd), or if you end up having to file an appeal, or if you are audited, or to file for tax relief or other program.
- Keep your necessary documentation handy. All applicants will need to show identification and proof of residency at the claimed address. Homeowners will also need to show proof of home ownership. Resident/owners of damaged mobile homes and trailers will need to show registration or bill of sale. (If your documentation is missing or damaged, tell your application taker.)
- The actual applicant does not have to be present at the inspection. FEMA allows a spouse or other adult family member to conduct the inspection and sign the required forms. However, you may want the applicant (who usually best knows your losses) to be present at the inspection. If the inspector comes when the applicant is not there, know that the spouse or other family member(s) present have the right to request that the inspection be rescheduled. This will inevitably slow down your claim by at least a few hours, possibly a day or even longer. Thus to avoid delay, make sure that all adult family members know your losses (itemized lists and photos help greatly) and can locate the necessary documentation.
PART C: SBA LOAN INFORMATION
Did you know? . . SBA low-interest loans are the most common form of federal disaster assistance for homeowners and renters as well as for business owners. You can get an SBA referral by calling the Teleregistration Center.
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- Even low-interest loans must be repaid. Trite but true! SBA loan applicants can be blinded by the lure of 4% money, and get into worse trouble because they overestimated their ability to repay a disaster loan. It does happen. Loan candidates can hire their own attorney, engineer, financial consultant, or other representative to assist them with loan planning and paperwork. Note: The (reasonable) cost of hiring someone to help can be included in the loan amount.
- Don't spend the loan proceeds carelessly. To quote the SBA, "The penalty for misusing disaster funds is the immediate repayment of one and one half the original amount of the loan."
- Hire a qualified reliable contractor. Get three estimates for all needed repairs, and, if you are using a contractor's estimate to determine the amount you'll need to borrow, get the contractor to agree in writing to pay for any cost overruns. It is sometimes possible to go back to the SBA for more money, but applying for a loan extension is not always successful, and is never fun ~(|:-(
~(|:-( = Guy bummed out when he realizes what all this free aid is gonna cost him, and it's especially tough, because he has his purty hat on, the one with the feather, and he was on his way to town to drink to his good fortune when he realized it won't amount to a whole heck of a lot after all, after everything's said and done, and he can't really afford a drink anymore.
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John Porter aka John Lionheart
All Rights Reserved.
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