As South Carolina turns toward storm recovery, local home and business owners can apply for disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as President Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency in the state. The agency started taking assistance applications Tuesday, either by phone at 1-800-621-3362 or at Disasterassistance.gov through the “Apply Online” button at the top of the page.
FEMA spokesperson Hannah Vick said FEMA is working with state officials to find office space and move personnel to South Carolina, but she emphasized individuals do not need to go to a center to get assistance. She said the sooner people apply by phone or online, the sooner the agency “can get those disaster assistance dollars flowing.”
Below are five key things assistance applicants should know to move through the process, according to Vick:
1 Start the process as quickly as possible, either by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or visiting www.DisasterAssistance.gov. To expedite that process, it helps to have your Social Security number, the address of the damaged home or apartment, a description of the damage (can be vague if the home or business is not accessible), insurance information, contact information (phone number and mailing address if not at the damaged structure). Having a bank account number and routing number for direct deposit is optional, but helpful if there is no fixed address to send checks.
2 An inspector will call to ask to look at the disaster damage. Applicants should meet the inspector at the property, if it is accessible, and the inspector will make an assessment of available assistance. Assistance will be either deposited or sent by check. If the property is not accessible, FEMA can still help if individuals are staying at a hotel, rental property or with friends.
3 Do not wait for FEMA inspectors to arrive to start cleaning up. Documenting damage and losses can help with insurance, but FEMA’s concern is safe and sanitary living conditions for individuals and families returning to damaged homes and businesses.
4 If individuals do not feel safe in damaged homes, reach out to local non-profit agencies. FEMA’s phone line can also direct callers to local aid agencies.
5 Homeowners and renters can get long-term, low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration. The agency has a special mission during disasters, offering loans to recoup disaster losses not covered by FEMA assistance. Information on those are usually sent by mail to individuals, and small businesses are also encouraged to reach out to the Small Business Administration. More information can be found by calling 1-800-659-2955 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Loan applications can be done online at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.