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Chap.4: Personal Losses - Chap.5: Applying For Assistance - Chap.6: Documentation

The New Disaster Relief Handbook

Disaster: Aid: America: Moneybook:) sm) tm

Chapter 5: Applying For Assistance

5.1: How to Apply - 5.2: Who Should File The Application - 5.3: Getting Ready To Apply - 5.4: The Application Worksheet

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5.1: How to Apply for Federal Disaster Assistance

Once a disaster is officially declared, FEMA moves quickly to upstaff their toll-free Disaster Teleregistration Center (800-462-9029) and Disaster Helpline (800-525-0321) and sometimes, but not always, set up localized Disaster Recovery Centers (alternatively called Disaster Recovery Information Centers or just Recovery Centers or Disaster Application Centers). Pay attention to your local media outlets: radio, TV, and newspapers. They will (or should) vigorously publish the hotline telephone number and location of the nearest Disaster Recovery Center. You may apply in person at one of these centers if they are set up, or you may apply over the telephone by calling the Teleregistration Center. If applying in person, you may be able to shorten the process by calling ahead for an appointment.

The application deadline is 60 days after the date of the disaster declaration. This deadline has sometimes been extended (call the FEMA hotline or your local disaster office if it's an issue for you).

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5.2: Who Should File the Application ?

Applications may be made by individuals or by families. Married (and unmarried) couples, living in the same residence, normally file just one application which encompasses their combined damage. Parents need to list on their application the names and ages (and social security numbers, if known) of the children and other dependents who live with them. Adult children living at home need to file their own application for damages if they are not dependents. Persons living alone, roommates, and boarders must always file their own application.

In short: To receive assistance you must either file your own application, or be listed as a spouse or dependent on someone else's application. If you are handicapped or so unwell that you can not physically accomplish the application process, you may have a friend or family member call in your application for you. Social service agencies can play a roll here as well (see: Disaster Cost Recovery Guidelines: A non-profit manager's guide to disaster assistance programs).

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5.3: Getting Ready to Apply

The information you provide on your application, its consistency and completeness, or lack thereof, can greatly influence the disposition of your claim. Whether you file in person or by phone, you need to provide information that is as accurate and complete as possible. Of particular importance are: ALL OF THE BELOW:
  • your current address and phone number
  • the address of your "damaged dwelling"
  • back-up phone number(s) where you may be reached on short notice
  • information about your insurance coverage (see worksheet, p. 46)
  • your personal property losses and other miscellaneous expenses
  • rural applicants or anyone whose address could be hard to find with a regular street map should also provide easy-to-follow directions to their damaged dwelling (start from the nearest town or major intersection).
Know too that, even if you apply in person, you do not actually fill out the application yourself. This is done by a trained FEMA "application taker", also called a service representative. (Regardless of what they're called, application takers are some of the nicest people you'll ever get to talk to over the telephone.) Depending on how "flooded" they are with calls, you could get routed just about anywhere. And with such busy switchboards, sometimes the connection can get a little scratchy. To ensure that the information on your completed application is entered correctly, you will need to have the application taker read it back to you after you and he or she have completed it. If you apply in person, be sure to look it over. Just a digit off on your phone number information could add up to a big delay in your claim. It normally takes about 10-20 minutes to file an application either in person or by using the disaster hotline. The worksheet section on the next two pages is provided for you to use in assembling some of the information you will need to provide at your application interview.

Inspector's notebook: Finally, the secret is out !
The typical disaster victim is just your average American citizen and taxpayer: a retired veteran living in a trailer park; or a divorced (or abandoned) mom with three kids and a mortgage; or a young married couple struggling to save enough money to put a down payment on their first house - by and large honest hard-working everyday folk struggling to rebuild their lives after an unexpected natural disaster, accustomed to being pretty much self-reliant and probably feeling a little embarrassed to have to apply for a government aid program, even disaster relief.

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5.4: Application Worksheet

Disaster Teleregistration:

Regular Phone: 1-800-462-9029
TTY: 1-800-462-7585

How to use this worksheet: This worksheet is designed to help you verify and assemble some* of the information that you will be asked to provide to the FEMA application taker when you file your disaster assistance claim. We suggest you print it out** and fill out the "hard copy" with pencil or pen. Pay special attention to your vital statistics; your address(es); your phone number(s); the directions to your damaged home, and so forth. Make doubly sure you've entered them correctly. After you're done read back through the whole thing. Are all your damages and losses mentioned? If not, make a note on the worksheet, and when you feel comfortable, give Teleregistration a call (number above), and file your application. Good luck. *Not only are program rules modified from time to time without much notice, but they are subject to differing interpretations within the agency as well - it's your responsibility to verify important details with your application taker or other formal authority. See our: Legal Notice. **For private use only - see our: Copyright Notice


  1. List the names, ages, and social security numbers (if known) for yourself, your spouse and any other dependents living with you at the time of the disaster.

    full name age social security number
    a) yourself
    b) spouse
    c) dependents

  2. List the names (and ages if known) of all other people living in your home at the time of the disaster.
    name age

  3. List all possible phone numbers for the next month or so:
    current phone #(s) work phone #(s) contact phone #(s)
    home: self: day:

  4. Address(es):
    current address mailing address damaged dwelling
    Line 1: Line 1: Line 1:
    Line 2: Line 2: Line 2:
    City/St: City/St: City/St:
    Zip: Zip: Zip:

  5. Directions to your damaged dwelling. (From the nearest town or major highway.)

  6. Re: your damaged dwelling. Do you: - Own? - Rent? - Other? ___

  7. Do you have insurance?
    a) Homeowners/Renters b) Hazard- Flood/Quake/Other
    Company: Company:
    Policy #: Policy #:
    Agent name: Agent name:
    Agent phone: Agent phone:
    Settlement?: Settlement?

  8. What is the combined family income? $_________ per _______

  9. What was the highest water level inside the home? (flood) feet____inches____

  10. Do you or any of your family have any medical needs related to the disaster?
    - - Who? - What?

  11. Do you or any of your family need crisis counseling because of the disaster?
    - - Who? - What?

  12. Have you or any of your family been out of work because of the disaster?
    - - Who? - What?

  13. Do you or any of your family have ongoing transportation problems due to the disaster.
    - - Who? - What? - If auto damage, give details, license number, etc.

  14. The application taker may ask you if specific areas were damaged, i.e. roof, exterior walls, foundation, utilities, etc. Correct answers are "yes", "no", and "I'm not sure, could the inspector take a look at it?"
    Q: What are the general areas of structural damage to your home?

  15. At some point in the interview (maybe even right off the bat) you will probably be asked: "How did the disaster affect you?" or something to that effect. The application taker will copy your statement onto the application form. Be brief but be sure to mention all major categories of damage, especially personal property or other expense listed in Chapter 4. In answering, also be certain to include your responses to questions #9 thru #13 (above) if you haven't been asked them yet. (It's better to duplicate information on your application than to leave something out.) For example: "The flood came up about three feet into the house and ruined most of our furniture and bedding. The washer is shot and the refridgerator doesn't work. The floors are buckling, most of the doors won't close, and my daughter lost two school uniforms and some textbooks. My car is still under water. We're sure the well must be polluted, but it needs to be tested yet."
    Q: State how the disaster affected you; what were your losses?

    * * * * * * * *
    Copyright ©1998-2009
    John Porter aka John Lionheart

    Beautiful Books
    All Rights Reserved.

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