Monday, May 11, 2009
12:44 PM


Common Misunderstandings May Cause Some Victims to Miss Out on Disaster Insurance & other issues

In the first days and weeks following a disaster, residents may be misled by half-truths and rumors they hear about how to get help from the various available assistance programs.  After experiencing a disaster, the last thing victims need is misinformation. According to state and federal disaster recovery officials, the best way to avoid that is to call and find out for yourself just what kind of assistance is available.

 Disaster victims who suffered damages and losses because of the severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding can apply for assistance immediately by calling the FEMA toll-free application number, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).  Multilingual operators are available.  Those with a speech or hearing impairment can call TTY 1-800-462-7585.  Both lines are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week until further notice.  The SEMA contact number for tornado assistance is 1-866-254-0140.

Some common misconceptions about disaster assistance are:

I have insurance.  There is no other help available to me.

Not True: Insurance is your main source for money to put your life back in order after a disaster.  But there are many things that insurance does not cover.  That is where federal and state disaster programs may be able to help.  You may also find that you are “underinsured” and disaster assistance can help make up the difference.

What about my farm losses?  There are often programs through the USDA Farm Service Agency to help recover farm losses.  Contact your local FSA Office for assistance, Perryville, 547-6531, Ste. Genevieve, 883-2703.  Start the paperwork!  Document your needs (pictures, etc.) and all of your time and expenses.  When the disaster program is announced you will have everything ready to go.  Minimum losses to qualify are $1000.  Things like fences are prorated by age. 

 I have to wait for my insurance adjuster before I apply for disaster assistance.

Not True: You do not have to wait for an agent or adjuster’s inspection before applying for disaster assistance or repairing your home so that it is safe, secure and sanitary.  However, if you have insurance, you should find out what your policy covers, and be sure to keep papers and receipts for any work.  But if you still have unmet disaster-related needs, you should call FEMA to apply. 

I already repaired my home.  It’s too late to apply.

            Not True: You could qualify for reimbursement of expenses not covered by your insurance. 

I got help from the Red Cross, so now I can't get help from FEMA or the State of Missouri.

Not True: FEMA and the State of Missouri 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 got help from the Red Cross, so I'm already registered with FEMA.

Not True: Registering with the Red Cross or local and county officials is not the same as applying with FEMA.  For federal and state disaster assistance, you must apply by calling the special toll-free application number:  1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the speech and hearing impaired. 

I have to be poor to qualify for disaster aid.

Not True: Federal and state disaster assistance programs may be available to those who suffered damage, regardless of income.  The programs are not welfare.  The kinds of help provided depend on the applicant's circumstances and unmet needs. 

I have to be turned down by my bank before I can apply for a disaster loan.

Not True: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which handles low-interest disaster loans, has its own criteria for determining each loan applicant’s eligibility.  The SBA will decide whether or not you are able to repay a loan. If you are not qualified for a loan, you may be eligible for other assistance, but it is necessary to go through the SBA application process first.  

I must own a business to apply for a loan from the SBA.

Not True:  Don’t let the name fool you.  In a presidential declaration, SBA is the primary source of financial assistance.  Renters and homeowners may be eligible for low-interest loans for home or personal property losses, based on the type and extent of “uninsured” or “underinsured” disaster-related losses. 

I rent an apartment.  I can't get help to replace my damaged property.

Not True: A renter may qualify for an SBA low-interest disaster loan or a cash grant 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. 

I'm self-employed and out of work; I can't qualify for disaster unemployment benefits.

Not True: Disaster Unemployment Assistance, funded by FEMA and administered by the Missouri Department of Labor, provides benefits for workers who would not normally qualify for unemployment compensation, including farmers, farm workers and those who are self-employed.  Anyone interested in filing for disaster unemployment assistance should visit the nearest employment services office. 

I have dead farm animals.  Is there any help or guidelines for disposal?

            Yes!  Locally, there is a rendering plant that provides for farm animal pick up.  Millstadt Rendering is an Illinois company that serves Perry County, MO.  Their phone number is 618-538-5312.  Dead animals should be taken care within 24 hours.  Other options include burial and composting.  Check the MO-DNR guide on dead animal disposal or your local MU Extension office for details.


University Outreach and Extension David Reinbott, reinbottd@missouri.edu
Agriculture Business Specialist
Last modified: May 11, 2009