FEMA Small Business Hurricane Disaster Assistance: Advice from an Expert

September 18, 2017

Hurricane Irma and Harvey were two of the most destructive storms in US history. Their damage hit multiple states throughout the South and South Atlantic. The cost of recovery will be hundreds of billions. Despite the setback, residents have already begun reconstructing their homes and livelihoods. To assist, gazelleindex.com (which is powered by EuQuant, pronounced U-Quant) sought advice from an experienced FEMA representative regarding how small business owners should apply for disaster assistance from FEMA. Below are the questions we asked and the answers we received.

  • Question: Is there recovery help from FEMA if the hurricane damaged my small business?
    • Answer: Yes
  • Question: Where should I go for information regarding what disaster assistance is available and how to apply for it?
    • Answer: First of all, the best place to go to find information regarding what you should do if businesses or farms were affected by the hurricane is the FEMA disaster relief site. The site contains information on the kind of assistance offered by FEMA, the Small Business Administration, and the Farm Services Agency. The FEMA helpline is 1–800–621–3362. Additional information for farmers and ranchers is available at US Department of Agriculture extension service. The application for disaster assistance is state specific, so be sure to select the state in which the damage occurred to your business.
  • Question: What type of aid is available? Are there types of losses that are not covered?
    • Answer: Business and farm loans are available at low-interest rates to repair or replace damaged property not covered by insurance, and to provide working capital. FEMA does not award grants. It does not matter what the damages are, as long as they are disaster-related.
  • Question: What must I do to apply for assistance?
    • Answer:
      • The process is similar, like residence, individuals with small businesses must apply online or by phone. DisasterAssistance.gov or 800-621-3362.
      • Business owners should also go to the Small Business Administration sba.gov and fill out their application.
      • The low-interest loans do not have upfront fees and processing costs.
  • Question: What are the different ways to register for assistance?
    • Answer: There are several ways:
      • Online: www.DisasterAssistance.gov
      • By Phone: 1-800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585
      • In Person: Visit a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). Download the FEMA App to find the nearest location. The information you need includes the following:
      • Social Security number
      • Address of the damaged home or apartment
      • Description of the damage
      • Information about insurance coverage
      • A current contact telephone number
      • An address where you can receive mail
      • Bank account and routing numbers for direct deposit of funds
    • If approved you will also need to provide Direct Deposit Information, but this is optional. If you do provide it, funds can be deposited directly into your bank account. The banking information you will is as follows:
      • Bank Name
      • Type of account (like checking or savings)
      • Routing number
      • Account number
  • Question: How long does it typically take to get aid?
    • Answer:
      • It depends on how soon the inspectors can get to your property. Sometimes the business insurance companies take a longer time to do inspections than do the FEMA inspectors.
      • So, it is essential that as soon as the inspectors assess the damages, you go ahead and apply to the SBA. Once the application is submitted, it usually takes 7 to 14 days, depending on the size of the disaster.
      • The money is deposited as soon as the business is
  • Question: Are there things I can do to speed up the process, such as documents that I should gather?
    • Answer: The required documents are indicated during the application process.
  • Question: What should I do if I lost everything in the flood, including documents?
    • Answer: The different agencies are usually are very cooperative during a disaster. When you register for disaster assistance, either online or by phone, you will need the following to complete your application.
      • Social Security number
      • Address of the location where the damage occurred (i.e. pre-disaster address)
      • Current mailing address
      • Current telephone number
      • Insurance information
      • Total household annual income
      • Routing and account number for your checking or savings account (this allows SBA to deposit disaster assistance funds directly into your bank account).
  • Question: Any other tips or advice you can provide that would be helpful?

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