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  1. Florida Politics

Storm damage? Get some basic info and apply now for FEMA assistance

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long speaks at FEMA headquarters in Washington, Tuesday to give an update on federal government support in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. [AP Photo | Andrew Harnik]
Published Sep. 13, 2017

TALLAHASSEE — Homeowners, renters and business owners in 37 Florida counties may now apply for federal disaster assistance for uninsured and under-insured damages and losses resulting from Hurricane Irma but, be warned, the process takes time.

Residents of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, DeSoto, Duval, Flagler, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Sumter and Volusia counties were designated as of Wednesday to be eligible for federal aid under FEMA's Individual Assistance Program. Storm damage and losses from the hurricane and flooding must have occurred as a result of Hurricane Irma, beginning on Sept. 4.

The first step is to go to DisasterAssistance.gov and fill out the online questionnaire. If your home has been destroyed, or if you have serious damage or losses, you may register with FEMA for assistance whether or not you are submitting insurance claims.

The agency encourages people to register for FEMA claims online, but those without internet access can register by calling: 1-800-621-3362 between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Applicants should gather some very basic documents. To apply, you will need: Social Security number; daytime telephone number; current mailing address and address and ZIP code of the damaged property, and private insurance information, if available.

Within 10 days of submitting your application, you should expect a call from FEMA to schedule an appointment for a home inspection. With all the damage in Florida, this could take some time.

If the inspector finds that you qualify for a FEMA grant, a check will be sent to you by mail or directly deposited into your account, and you will receive a letter describing how you are to use the money.

If you don't qualify, FEMA will send you a letter explaining why and tell you how to go about appealing that decision.

After filing your application, you can use your account to check its status, get updates by text or email, and to upload supporting documents.

FEMA's Individuals and Households Program covers temporary housing and rental assistance, home repairs or replacement and other needs not covered by insurance. It is a program of the federal government and, unlike a bank loan, FEMA assistance does not have to be repaid, but it will not cover things insurance will provide, only things not covered by insurance.

Homeowners with property insurance should file separate claims with both their insurance provider and with FEMA. The federal assistance will not duplicate insurance payments. Those without insurance may still receive help, and those who may be under-insured may also be eligible for assistance after their insurance claims have been settled.

Losses that are not fully compensated by insurance, and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations, may also be eligible for long-term, low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Only one registration per household is needed, but federal agents will make decisions based on need. Each household is handled on a case-by-case basis, said John Mills, FEMA external affairs officer in Tallahassee.

Contact Mary Ellen Klas at meklas@miamiherald.com. Follow @MaryEllenKlas

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