Did Hurricane Ian damage your home, vehicle? Disaster victims may apply to FEMA for financial help.

by 24USATVSept. 30, 2022, 4 a.m. 19
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TALLAHASSEE — President Biden declared much of Florida a major disaster area on Thursday following Hurricane Ian's destructive rampage through the state.

The declaration means people in those counties affected by the monster storm can apply online for financial assistance through DisasterAssistance.gov, by telephone or in person at federal processing centers that will soon be set up in Florida.

Biden's declaration gives the Federal Emergency Management Agency the authorization to directly help individuals pay for temporary housing and home repairs, offer low-interest loans to cover uninsured property losses and fund other federal programs to assist individuals and business owners recover from one of the state's biggest ever storms.

"Folks in Florida who have destroyed or damaged homes — if you don’t have enough insurance, it means the federal government will provide individual assistance of [up to] $37,900 for home repairs, another $37,900 for lost property — everything from an automobile to a lost wedding ring. And that’s what we mean by 'lost property,'” Biden told reporters on Thursday at FEMA headquarters in Washington.

The declaration also provides 100% federal funding for debris removal and emergency, life-saving measures for 30 days in those counties, according to FEMA's latest statement.

The White House said it was assessing damages elsewhere in the state and may add more counties.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said he spoke with Biden Thursday morning, thanking him for the declaration but telling him more counties would need to be added.

"We do expect more," DeSantis said.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Wednesday that the Biden administration "is ready to help the people of Florida in every way possible.

"And, when the storm passes, we will be there to help Florida rebuild and recover," she said. "We are committed to seeing this through.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Floridians will be eligible for financial assistance through FEMA or the Small Business Administration. FEMA distributes immediate financial assistance to applicants; loans are processed and approved through the SBA.

“I spoke to the FEMA director [and] they have simplified their process coming into the hurricane season to make it easier for people to access it,” Rubio told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday.

“There are going to be people left without homes [and] without access to money and food for a substantial period of time,” he said. “We want them to know we'll be out there helping to make those resources available after the storm has passed and conditions are safe.”

How to apply for FEMA disaster assistance

Even before the application process begins online (offered in both English and Spanish) or in person, Floridians who qualify will need to assemble some important documents and information to share with FEMA officials. Here’s the “Disaster Survivor Checklist”:

Social Security number. FEMA requires that the applicant, another adult member or minor child in a household have a Social Security number. The other requirements: At least one household member must be a U.S. citizen or legal U.S. resident.

Insurance information. FEMA requires an applicant’s current insurance coverage. This could include coverage under policies like homeowners, flood, automobile, or mobile home insurance.

Damage information. FEMA requires a description of the damage caused by the disaster to your property, which includes a condo, mobile home or house, or a car or truck.

Financial information. FEMA requires an applicant provide their total annual household income, before taxes, at the time of the disaster.

Contact information. FEMA requires the address and phone number of the property where the damage occurred and the address and phone number of where the applicant can be immediately reached.

Direct deposit information. If approved, FEMA can deposit your funds directly into your bank account. This is optional, but FEMA would need the following banking information: Bank name, type of account (checking or savings), bank routing number and the applicants bank account number.

FEMA does offer help by phone with any application. The toll-free number: 1-800-621-3362.

FEMA also publishes a wealth of information online, including a helpful page of “Frequently Asked Questions” at https://www.disasterassistance.gov/help/faqs#before-you-apply-3

Disaster relief applicants should also keep handy a set of notes to track when they applied, passwords and application registration numbers or other vital information to follow up on their FEMA applications.

USA Today Network-Florida government accountability reporter Douglas Soule is based in Tallahassee, Fla. He can be reached at [email protected] Twitter: @DouglasSoule

Sergio Bustos is Enterprise/Politics Editor for Florida's Gannett/USA Today Network. He's based in South Florida. Email: [email protected]

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