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Don’t let Sandy victims miss their opportunity to get help

A Norwalk home suffers the effects of Hurricane Sandy. (Contributed photo.)

NORWALK, Conn. – Let’s talk about FEMA before it is too late – too late being New Year’s Day.

“One of our continuing concerns is that Connecticut residents who suffered damage and losses as a result of Superstorm Sandy may put off registering with FEMA and miss the application deadline, which is Dec. 31st (60 days after the President’s disaster declaration for Connecticut),” said FEMA Public Information Officer Mike McCormick in an email.

Maybe you don’t need help, but you have neighbors who do. Common misconceptions about registration may have discouraged them from registering, McCormick said.

“People give themselves all sorts of reasons – excuses, really – for not contacting us. I’ve listed some of the most common ones below. None of them is true; none will prevent a homeowner or renter from applying for federal disaster assistance.”

15 REALLY BAD EXCUSES FOR NOT REGISTERING WITH FEMA

  1. I have insurance.
  2. I don’t have insurance.
  3. I’m a renter.
  4. I make too much money.
  5. The damage is already repaired.
  6. There’s too much paperwork.
  7. I don’t speak English.
  8. I am not a US citizen. (Applicants must be legal residents, not necessarily citizens. Undocumented immigrants may apply for assistance on behalf of their minor children who were born in this country, and are therefore citizens.)
  9. Others need the help more than I do.
  10. My friend-neighbor-uncle told me I wouldn’t qualify.
  11. I can’t find a recovery center.
  12. I received (or was refused) federal disaster assistance last year.
  13. I already registered with the Red Cross.
  14. I already registered with my local social services agency.
  15. I became registered when I filed my NFIP claim.

“The important thing to tell all your friends and neighbors throughout the community is to register,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Albert Lewis in a statement. “That one step may unlock grants, low-interest loans, disaster unemployment assistance, and other state or federal aid. And registering is as easy as using a computer or smartphone, or calling a phone number, whether accessing us through an 800 number, through TTY, or our accessible website.”

Your neighbors might say they have not registered with FEMA because they have insurance.

Explain they may be eligible for help with uninsured or underinsured losses, and sometimes damage is found insurance won’t cover but federal disaster assistance may. But your neighbor must register with FEMA to get the help.

If your friend is still waiting for a visit from an insurance adjuster or for an insurance settlement, tell them to go ahead and register with FEMA before the registration deadline because the settlement might come after the deadline has passed.

Friends or neighbors should go ahead with necessary repairs to make their house livable and be sure to keep papers and receipts for all work.

Some friends, neighbors or family members believe they make too much money to apply for assistance.

Most federal and state disaster assistance programs are available to individuals of all income levels. The types of help provided depend on each applicant’s unique circumstances and unmet needs. The aid is to help individuals and communities come back as quickly as possible from a disaster.

Sometimes folks think they do not have enough damage to their homes to apply for assistance.

The damage caused by storms and the costs associated with repairs or rebuilding may not be apparent for some time. By registering with FEMA now, you may be eligible for assistance if you find damage later.

Assure friends, neighbors or family members that FEMA disaster assistance will not interfere with federal assistance they are already receiving.

Disaster assistance grants are not taxable income and will not affect eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid, medical waiver programs, welfare assistance (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or other state programs), food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, or Social Security Disability Insurance.

People with storm losses should register with FEMA online or with a smartphone or device at m.fema.gov. Applicants can also register by phone by calling FEMA at: 800-621-3362. If you use TTY, call 800-462-7585.

Survivors who have questions about their registration may call the FEMA helpline at the numbers listed above or go to a Disaster Recovery Center for assistance.

More than 10,000 residents of Fairfield, Middlesex, New Haven, and New London, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribal Nation located within New London County have registered for federal disaster assistance so far, the office of Gov. Dannel Malloy announced this week.

A Norwalk home suffers the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

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