The Westport Fire Marshal's Office released the following annoucenment Friday:
"Following the declaration of Connecticut as a major disaster area Tuesday, local residents may now apply for financial assistance from the Federal Government to help pay for rebuilding their lives. These tax-free grants from the government are administered through the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and provide direct funding for the repair or replacement of property damaged or destroyed by storm Sandy. The payments are outright grants, not loans, and do not have to be repaid.
FEMA grants are available to cover temporary housing costs, and the repair or replacement of storm-damaged dwellings, among other things. If you have insurance, a FEMA grant can act as a supplement to your coverage. For example, if your homeowner’s policy is not adequate to cover the repair of your home, or if the insurance coverage for temporary housing costs runs out, a FEMA grant can make up the difference. Think of these grants as a type of “secondary insurance” to pay for losses not covered by your insurance company, or as “primary insurance” of you have no coverage at all. However, the grants only cover “specific personal need” – so that while the loss of an automobile may be covered, the loss of trees, fences and outbuildings is not.
Obtaining a FEMA grant starts with an application that can be completed on line (www.disasterassistance.gov), or taken over the telephone by the FEMA call center (800-621-FEMA). Applicants must provide the date of loss, contact and insurance policy information, their Social Security number, gross household income at the time of loss and the loss they are claiming. You also have the option of providing banking information for the direct deposit of your grant. FEMA grants are available to individuals only. Business losses addressed through the Small Business Administration’s business loan program.
Once your application is received and processed, you will be assigned an application number and contacted by an inspector who will assess your disaster-related damage. Within 10 days of the inspector’s review, you will receive a decision letter with funding shortly thereafter. If your claim is rejected, you have the right to an appeal.
With the immense scope of Sandy’s damage in Westport, the FEMA grant program is a logical next step for property owners after they contact their insurance company. And FEMA grants are very flexible- they can cover everything from repairs to a waterlogged car, to clean-up supplies, to covering moving and storage expenses while your property is repaired. And they are tax-free.
Residents affected by Sandy are encouraged to look up the FEMA website (www.disasterassistance.gov) and review this helpful program in detail. There is a complete descriptive booklet, Help After a Disaster, available there as a .pdf for download.
The on-line application process is very straightforward and takes about 15 – 20 minutes. If you prefer, you can phone in your application to 800-621-FEMA (3362). A recent check of this number found call waiting times of around 20 minutes due to the high volume of claims pouring in. The recording suggests calling after 10:00 p.m. for shorter waiting times."