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What You Need to Know About Wildfire Disaster Aid

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Some misconceptions could lead to Oklahomans missing out on disaster aid from April's wildfire, emergency management officials warned this week.

Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials urge anyone with damages and losses caused by the wildfires April 9-12 to apply for assistance by calling 800-621-3362 or (TTY) 800-462-7585 or by going online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.

FEMA published this list of the most common misconceptions affecting eligibility for disaster aid:

  • I called my local emergency management director and reported my damages and losses, so I'm registered for federal and state disaster assistance programs. Not True: The call to a city or county emergency management director was to help locate areas affected by the April wildfires. Now, a separate call to FEMA is needed to register for federal and state programs.
  • FEMA disaster aid covers tornadoes and flooding but does not apply to wildfires. Not True: While tornado and flood disasters are more common to Oklahoma, wildfires are often the cause of presidential disaster declarations in other parts of the country. President Obama issued a disaster declaration June 19 for the wildfires that hit central Oklahoma in April. As a result of this declaration, residents of nine Oklahoma counties may be eligible for federal and state disaster assistance
  • I have insurance, so there is no other help available.  Not True: FEMA will not duplicate insurance benefits, but you may be eligible for help with losses not covered by your insurance. That's why it is important to register for assistance even while you are working with your insurance company to assess your insurance coverage.
  • I have to wait for my insurance adjuster before I apply for disaster assistance.   Not True: Don't wait for an adjuster before applying for aid or making repairs needed to make your house livable.  Follow your policy guidelines and keep your receipts.
  • I already repaired my home. I don't need to apply.  Not True: You might qualify for reimbursement of expenses not covered by insurance.  Keep your receipts.
  • I got help from the American Red Cross, so I'm already registered with FEMA.  Not True: Registration with the Red Cross is not the same as registration with FEMA. For federal and state disaster assistance, you must apply by calling 800-621-FEMA, (TTY) 800-462-7585 or register online at www.fema.gov.
  • I got help from the American Red Cross, so now I can't get help from FEMA or the state.  Not True: FEMA and the state coordinate a number of programs to help disaster victims. These programs are different from the emergency food, clothing and shelter initially provided by the Red Cross and other voluntary agencies.
  • I have to be poor to qualify for disaster aid.  Not True: The kinds of help provided depend on each applicant's circumstances. Federal and state disaster assistance programs may be available to those with damages, regardless of income.
  • I have to be turned down by my bank before I can apply for a disaster loan. Not True: If you live in a declared county, you are eligible to apply for a low-interest disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).  If SBA cannot approve your loan application, you may be referred to other agencies for additional assistance, but that can't happen if you don't return your application.
  • I must own a business to apply for a loan from the SBA.  Not True: The SBA low-interest loan is the primary source of federal assistance for long-term recovery for homeowners and renters as well as business owners.  SBA covers uninsured or underinsured losses for real estate and personal property damage for homeowners and renters.
  • I rent an apartment. I can't get help.  Not True: Several types of assistance are available to renters. One grant may help them with temporary housing needs if they have to move because of disaster damage or loss. Another grant may be available to an eligible individual or family with serious, disaster-related needs and necessary expenses not covered by insurance or other disaster assistance programs. SBA also may be able to help renters replace damaged or lost personal property with a low-interest disaster loan.

More on News9.com:

Oklahoma Wildfires: Complete Coverage County by County

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