Media Release

FEMA Assistance Misconceptions

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 1:00 AM
9:15 a.m.

ALACHUA COUNTY, FL - Don't let half-truths and rumors force you to miss out on federal disaster assistance available to those devastated by Tropical Storm Fay and continued flooding.  Here are some answers that should help clarify common misconceptions about disaster assistance:

  • Isn't registering with FEMA for disaster assistance complicated?

No. Registration takes about 20 minutes, either by phone or on the Internet. Applicants should register by calling the Federal Emergency Management Agency toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). The deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired may call the TTY line at 800-462-7585 and apply. Multilingual operators are available to speak to applicants.  Toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to midnight daily, until further notice. Also, applicants can register online at, or at a Disaster Recovery Center.

  • If I registered for help with the American Red Cross, do I have to register with FEMA too?

Yes. FEMA coordinates a number of federal programs to help individuals. However, they are different from the emergency food, clothing and shelter initially provided by the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other voluntary agencies. Registration with the American Red Cross or other voluntary agencies is not the same as applying with FEMA.

  •  If I have insurance, can I still apply for FEMA assistance to help pay for losses my insurance doesn't cover?

Yes. While insurance is your main source of funding to put your life back in order, there are many things insurance does not cover. Some individuals may find they are "underinsured" and disaster assistance may be able to help fill the gap.

  • Do I have to wait for an insurance adjustor or inspector to visit before I can clean up?

No. You should begin cleaning your home or business as soon as possible to prevent further damage. Remember to take photos and keep records of your clean-up efforts and expenses.

  • Can I apply for a loan from the SBA or are they only for businesses?

Yes. The SBA offers disaster loans to renters, homeowners and businesses for their "uninsured" or "underinsured" disaster-related losses. In a presidential declaration, the U.S. Small Business Administration is the primary source of federal financial assistance. The SBA has representatives in all Disaster Recovery Centers.

  •  I don't want a loan, I want a grant. Do I still need to fill out an SBA loan form?

Yes. FEMA's Other Needs Assistance program is designed to help meet serious, disaster-related needs. If you do not qualify for a loan, you may be considered for other forms of assistance. However, referral to other programs cannot be made until the SBA loan application is completed, returned and evaluated. So you must complete and return your SBA loan application.

  • Do I have to visit a Disaster Recovery Center to apply for assistance?

No. You may call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362) to start the process. The deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired may call the TTY line at 800-462-7585 and apply. Multilingual operators are available to speak to applicants. Toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to midnight until further notice. Also, applicants can register online at

  • Do I have to be a legal U.S. resident to receive Individual Assistance?

Possibly. To be eligible for assistance from FEMA you must be a U.S. citizen or a qualified alien. A qualified alien generally includes individuals who are lawful permanent residents (possessing an alien registration receipt card commonly called a "Green Card") or those with legal status due to asylum, refugee, parole (admission into the U.S. for humanitarian purposes), withholding of deportation, or victim of domestic violence.

  • I am an undocumented immigrant, do I qualify?

Possibly. You may apply for Individual Assistance on behalf of your child who is a U.S. citizen or a qualified alien. Or another adult household member may qualify for household assistance if he or she is a documented immigrant. You may also be eligible under many different programs run by state, local and voluntary agencies for various types of assistance. An undocumented immigrant may be eligible for short-term, non-cash emergency aid provided by FEMA.

  • If I rent an apartment can I get help to replace my damaged property?

Possibly. A renter may also qualify for an SBA low-interest disaster loan or a grant from FEMA to replace personal property. One type of grant may cover temporary housing needs if a renter has to move to another dwelling. Another type of grant may be available to an eligible individual or families with serious disaster-related needs and expenses that are not covered by insurance or other disaster assistance programs.

FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status.  If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.

SBA's disaster loans are the primary form of federal assistance for non-farm, private sector disaster losses. Disaster loans from SBA helps homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and nonprofit organizations fund repair and replacement of disaster damaged real and personal property.  These disaster loans cover uninsured and uncompensated losses and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations. For information about SBA programs, applicants may call 800-659-2955 or visit online at or email SBA's customer service center at

For statewide disaster information and to find out how you can Get A Plan! for disasters, please visit







  • Mark Sexton
  • Communications & Legislative Affairs Director
  • Phone: 352-374-5204
  • Cell: 352-283-2317

If you have a disability and need an accommodation in order to participate in a County program, service or public meeting, please contact the Alachua County Equal Opportunity Office at 352-374-5275 at least 2 business days prior to the event. TTY users please call 711 (Florida Relay Service).