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What to Know About Applying for FEMA Assistance in the Wake of Hurricane Maria

by karin on October 26, 2017

In the weeks after Hurricane Maria hit, people throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands are seeking whatever assistance they can to help rebuild their homes and their lives. One of the options available is to apply for relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Assistance is available for those who have suffered in a federally declared natural disaster, including Maria.

Below is an overview of what you need to know about applying for FEMA assistance:

The application process

There are several methods to apply for FEMA assistance, the easiest of which are to apply online or via telephone. To apply online, visit www.disasterassistance.gov. If you are having difficulty applying online for any reason, you may also call 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7285) or you may apply locally at the Omar Brown Fire Station or the Bordeaux Farmer’s Market for relief during standard hours of operation, which run from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST, six days a week. After you have filed your application, you may check its status any time at disasterassistance.gov, regardless of the method you used to apply.

You have 60 days from the date of a declaration of disaster for Individual Assistance to apply for relief. Note that if you are eligible for an Individual Assistance grant, you do not have to pay back the money. There is also no income threshold for Individual Assistance grants, but some people may be referred to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for a low-interest loan to aid in their recovery. SBA loans must be repaid.

Documents you will need to apply

There are certain documents and materials you will need to complete your application, whether you do it online or over the phone. These include the following:

  • Social Security number

  • Current mailing address and telephone number

  • Address of the location at which the damage occurred

  • Your insurance information, including policy number and coverages

  • Your total household annual income

  • A routing and account number for your checking or savings account, which allows FEMA to directly deposit disaster assistance funds into your account

  • A comprehensive description of all the damage and losses the disaster caused

Additional resources

The FEMA website has an Individual Disaster Assistance page with many other useful resources that will guide you through your relief application This includes information on the following:

  • The types of assistance FEMA provides to individuals and families

  • What happens during a home inspection

  • What happens if you have insurance

  • What happens after a home inspection

  • How you can get a copy of your application or case file

  • How you can appeal a FEMA decision regarding your assistance

Keep these tips in mind as you seek the assistance you need after Hurricane Maria. These programs and others can give you much-needed help as you work to rebuild your life.

Tom Bolt is Managing Attorney of BoltNagi, a widely respected and well-established business and corporate law firm serving individuals and organizations throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands and is assisting in the Territory’s recovery as Chair of the Advisory Board for The Salvation Army and facilitating Disaster Legal Services.

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