FEMA fields calls from R-C residents

Published 9:25 am Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nearly 900 Roanoke-Chowan area residents have applied for individual assistance from FEMA in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

According to the most recent numbers, made available Monday by FEMA spokesperson William Lindsey, 478 applications have been received from Northampton County residents; 189 have applied for aid in Hertford County; 178 are seeking federal help in Bertie County and 47 Gates County citizens have made the phone call to FEMA for assistance.

Lindsey said the application process is ongoing. He urged anyone that experienced property damage or personal losses from the storm to immediately contact FEMA, toll-free, at 1-800-621-3362 or visit online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov to begin the application process. Those with smartphones can apply by visiting m.fema.gov.

“Even if you are covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy we still encourage you to apply as we have over 65 programs and services available,” Lindsey said. “The first step in that process is to register, either by phone or online.”

Once the initial contact is made with FEMA the property owner is assigned a registration number.

“Guard that number with your life,” Lindsey stressed. “The registration number is an important part of the process.”

Once the applicant is assigned a number, a FEMA inspector will call to arrange for a visit to the damaged property. Inspectors are private contractors who wear official FEMA identification. Authorized inspectors will only confirm personal detailed information that has been provided previously during the registration process. There is no charge for the inspection. It’s important to keep the scheduled appointment to make sure the assistance process moves quickly.

“Our inspectors do not ask for any monetary compensation to perform their assessments of storm-damaged property,” Lindsey said. “Please be aware there are numerous cases of fraudulent activity that typically occurs in the aftermath of a storm. Even if the person visiting your home appears to be legitimate, even down to wearing a FEMA shirt, we would advise to ask them to show identification. Our inspectors carry government ID.”

At this time, FEMA has not opened any Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) in the Roanoke-Chowan area. Lindsey said FEMA is still involved in the damage assessment process locally and is working closely with local Emergency Management directors in each R-C area county to determine the biggest needs and where to deploy additional resources such as DRC’s.

Federal assistance to individuals and households may include loans and grants to help pay for rental housing, essential home repairs and other disaster-related expenses.

What to Expect:

1: Call from Inspector: After registration an inspector will call and schedule an appointment to visit the damaged property – generally no longer than 10 days after registration.

2: Inspector’s Visit: Inspectors will review both structural and personal property damage and then file a report. The process typically takes 15 to 45 minutes. Inspectors do not determine an applicants’ eligibility. The applicant – or someone who is 18 or older and lived in the household prior to the disaster – must be present for the scheduled appointment.

3: Follow Up Letter: Within 10 days of an inspector’s visit, applicants will receive a letter from FEMA containing a decision. Individuals with questions regarding the letter should call the helpline number 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585) or visit a disaster recovery center http://www.fema.gov/drclocator. If an applicant is eligible for assistance, the letter will be followed by a check or an electronic funds transfer. The letter explains how the money can be used.

Applicants may receive a low-interest disaster loan application in the mail from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The loan does not have to be accepted. However, completing an SBA application opens the door to other possible forms of assistance.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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