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Helpful Tips on Aid from FEMA and the SBA

Helpful Tips on Aid from FEMA and the SBA
Editor's Note: This article was written and submitted by Stephen Bronner. 

Government aid is available from both FEMA and the Small Business Administration, so anyone that was affected by Superstorm Sandy is urged to apply, officials recently said in Nassau County.

The first step is to register with FEMA, and then to put in an application with the SBA, according to Greg Dawson of the SBA. FEMA provides grants to cover “essential” needs and to make homes livable and secure, while SBA provides loans for other repairs and expenses. Neither government agency will duplicate what you’ll receive from the other or your insurance.

Dawson said that if you receive an SBA application in the mail, fill it out or else all aid may cease. You can always choose to not accept the loan. Even if you didn’t get a lot of damage, you should still apply for the loan.

“Do not fear the paperwork,” Dawson said. “We’re going to get you through it.”

Some important information about both FEMA and SBA aid:

  • You usually need an application in the system to have an inspection. It can take anywhere from 7 to 14 days from application date to inspection due to the extent of the disaster.
  • Residents whose homes were damaged are encouraged to start cleaning. Be sure to document the damage by taking photos. Leaving your home in a damaged state can cause it to worsen. Inspectors are trained to spot damage from the recent storm.
  • Inspectors will ask for ownership and occupancy documents upon arrival.
  • “I haven’t been to a disaster where scam artists aren’t there to get you. Ask for credentials,” Dawson said.
  • You have 60 days to appeal any decision the agency makes. FEMA’s fax number is (800) 827-8112. Appeals can be mailed to FEMA, PO Box 10055, Hyattsville, Md., 20782
  • Flood insurance does not cover rent or living expenses — FEMA does. Grants are capped at $31,900.
  • If insurance claims will take longer than 30 days, FEMA has a process to help.
  • Living expenses such as a hotel stay can be covered by FEMA — it’s recommended to submit the receipts. Food is not covered.
  • Do not expect FEMA to pay for things such as a 72-inch plasma television. You may be compensated for a TV, but not the high-end one you have.
  • Certain items, such as a wet vacuum or chainsaw, are covered by the state for reimbursement. Be sure to save and submit your receipts.
  • Homeowners can borrow up to $200,000 for repairs and other expenses from the SBA, renters can get up to $40,000 and business owners can get up to $2 million. It typically takes 10 to 14 days for loans to turn around.
  • Applications can be completed online, but Dawson recommends taking it to a disaster recovery center to work with someone face to face. Find the nearest center by calling the SBA’s customer service line at (800) 659-2955
  • Businesses that did not sustain physical damage can still get loan money for days lost.

“We’re going to be here until we get the job done,” Dawson said. “The president has committed to that.”

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