FEMA, SBA on ground for disaster victims


Two federal agencies have begun working in Rhode Island to assist disaster victims in applying for federal relief funding.

Following President Joe Biden’s approval of a declaration designating September storms, tornadoes and flooding as a “major disaster,” workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) are in Rhode Island assisting victims in the acquisition of federal aid.

FEMA has opened disaster recovery centers (DRC) in at the Johnston Senior Center and the Cumberland Town Hall, with SBA opening a business relief center (BRC) in North Providence Safety Complex.

FEMA Applications

Maria Padron of FEMA’s public affairs office explained, “The [DRC] is where survivors can go to meet one-on-one with a specialist who can register the survivor, answer questions about how FEMA can help or questions about the status of their application, or if they need to return any paperwork. At this DRC, representatives of other governmental and non-profit organizations, who may be able to help survivors with their recovery will also be there to offer assistance and answer questions.”

FEMA also opened a Mobile Registration Intake Center in the Cranston Public Library, which closed Monday, from which victims of the September flooding could file applications to FEMA, Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) and the SBA with the help of workers from those organizations.

Padron made it clear that these centers are open to any Rhode Islanders impacted by the September flooding and not limited to victims living in the city in which the center is located.

FEMA has also begun sending teams door-to-door in impacted neighborhoods. With the help of those agents, victims of flooding should be able to file their applications right away.

“It all starts with the registration,” Padron says. “To prepare to register, survivors should gather their Social Security number; any Insurance information, including policy number; current contact information, including phone and address; address of damaged property; and Bank account and routing number for direct deposit of FEMA assistance funds. This is the only time that FEMA will ask for this personal information.”

Furthermore, Padron says survivors must apply with FEMA for assistance within 60 days following the Presidential declaration, which means the latest an application can be filed is March 7, 2024. Padron also warns applicants to be mindful of scammers.

“Representatives from FEMA will never ask you for money to help you fill out an application or to help you receive assistance,” she said. “Other than the information you provide on your application, FEMA will never ask for access to your banking or for money.”

FEMA workers and Inspectors always can show you photo identification. They will give the applicant a registration number, which will be used in all further communications with FEMA.

Padron warns applicants to pay attention to their phones after applying. When the inspector calls, no caller ID will appear. The inspector will call the applicant three times, and if the person doesn’t respond after three calls, the case is declined.

If applicants have already begun repairs, Padron urges them to keep the receipts. They may be entitled to reimbursement after a FEMA application is accepted.

SBA Applications

Disaster victims hoping to apply with SBA will be able to find representatives at the DRC’s and BRC’s listed above, but unlike FEMA they will not be sending agents door to door, as of Jan. 22. Applications to SBA may be filed for physical damage by March 7 and applications for economic injury may be filed by Oct. 7.

Despite the name, SBA loans are not limited to businesses. They offer loans to homeowners and renters as well. For homeowners, a loan of up to $500,000 to cover damage to a homeowners’ primary residence is available. For homeowners and renters, a loan of up to $100,000 is available for contents and personal property, including vehicles. Applicants are encouraged to apply before insurance is settled.

The loans are available at low, fixed interest rates with terms of up to 30 years with no payment or interest for 12 months from the rate of first disbursement.

For businesses and non-profits, the terms are similar, with up to $2 million available to cover physical damage and financial loss.

In order to apply for any of these, an applicant will need a cell phone and contact information for all applicants, social security numbers and employer identification numbers for all applicants/owners, financial information (income, account balances, monthly expenses, etc …), a complete copy of the most recent federal income tax return, and insurance information if available.

In order to apply, applicants can visit sba.gov/disaster, call 1-800-659-2955, or visit one of the centers listed above.

If one has been affected by the flooding which took place in December and January, while federal assistance is not yet available, one is still encouraged to document and report any damages. Following Gov. Dan Mckee’s declaration of emergency for both events, the door has been opened for FEMA and SBA assistance to be made available for victims of those floods as well in future.


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