SEATTLE – A toll-free application telephone number and on-line registration for federal emergency aid are operational for residents who suffered property damage or losses from the floods last November.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency's help is targeted for Clark, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, King, Lewis, Pierce, Skagit, Skamania, Snohomish, Thurston and Wahkiakum counties.
In response to a request from Gov. Christine Gregoire, President George W. Bush signed a major disaster declaration designating these counties eligible for aid from the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency to help meet the recovery needs of stricken residents and business owners.
State and federal officials encourage those affected by the disaster to apply for assistance immediately by going online to www.fema.gov or calling toll-free, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (local time) Monday through Saturday until further notice. Those with speech or hearing impairments can call TTY 1-800-462-7585.
"Your phone call or online registration is your application for both state and federal assistance available under the disaster declaration," said Libby Turner, federal coordinating officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Registration is the most important first step an individual can take to receive federal aid, said Kurt Hardin, state coordinating officer for the Washington Emergency Management Division.
"Even if an individual has checked on insurance coverage for property losses, federal aid may help pay for deductibles and unmet needs," Hardin said.
The declaration makes residents of these counties eligible for a wide range of programs such as funding for temporary disaster housing assistance, U.S. Small Business Administration low-interest disaster loans for individuals and business owners to repair or replace damaged property, replacement grants for serious disaster-related needs and expenses not covered by insurance or other assistance programs, and disaster unemployment assistance.
When applying for help, be sure to have the following information available:
• Current phone number;
• Address at the time of the disaster and the address where you are now staying;
• Social Security number, if available;
• General list of damages and losses you suffered;
• The name of the insured, the name of your company or agent and your policy number;
• General financial information;
• Bank account coding if you wish to speed up your assistance with direct deposit.
"Don't prejudge your eligibility, even if you don't have all the information necessary or it was lost in the flooding," Turner said. "It's important that all residents get the assistance available to them as quickly as possible."
Federal disaster assistance covers basic needs only and will not normally compensate for the entire loss. The government may help pay for basic needs not covered under the insurance policies that residents may have. Residents should contact their insurance agent first, then if they have unmet needs they should call the Federal Emergency Management Agency to apply.
Some disaster aid does not have to be paid back, while other help may come in the form of loans. The government representative will explain the details to residents when they call.
The management agency's temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for a Small Business Administration loan. However, applicants who receive small business loan applications must submit them to Small Business Administration loan officers to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement and moving and storage expenses.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency manages federal response and recovery efforts following national incidents. The emergency agency also initiates mitigation activities, works with state and local emergency managers and manages the National Flood Insurance Program.