ORLANDO, Fla. - Hurricane Ian left behind billions of dollars worth of damage in the state of Florida and FEMA is offering financial assistance to those impacted – but getting those funds has been easier said than done for some families.
In some areas, flooding is finally starting to recede after Hurricane Ian. That means people are able to get back into their homes and assess the damage. It may be helpful to go in person if you can because even FEMA representatives say it can be tricky paperwork.
"There are always things that can slow down the process," said Jann Tracey, a spokesperson for FEMA. "Generally speaking, most of the time, it’s because people don’t have the documentation they need. That is the biggest problem – particularly in a flood, people lose everything."
There are some workarounds.
For instance, if you don’t have a copy of your insurance papers, you might instead be able to provide your insurance agent’s name. And if your county wasn’t listed as a place approved for disaster relief – check again.
That list is expanding, and FEMA still has crews out assessing damage and adding to the list.
- Shocking photos from space show Florida 'shedding' water from Hurricane Ian
- Orlando FreeFall ride to be torn down after Tyre Sampson's death, operators confirm
- Nebraska GOP senator likely to resign to take job as UF president
If you are having trouble filling out those forms, FEMA says your best bet is to give them a call or show up in person to one of their relief centers so you can have someone help walk you through the process.
One of the other benefits of doing that is the person you’re talking with may fill you in on benefits you didn’t even exist.
The agency has a number of benefits people might not know about – like money to help people pay for rent at a new home, including the security deposit and utilities. That starts at two months of payment and can be extended from there.
Towery feels that’s only partial relief.
"It would be really helpful for short-term," she said. "It’s not a long-term decision or anything. For me, how expensive rent just increased. It’s $1500 minimum for a one-bedroom now if you go somewhere safe."
There’s other relief for renters too, though, as Tracey explained:
"If the property was damaged, and you had, for example, furniture or your clothing, or perhaps food in the refrigerator – the refrigerator itself belongs to the landlord, but the food belongs to you."
FEMA also just got approved for a program that pays for people to stay in hotels rather than shelters.
Another benefit: if your primary mode of transportation was damaged, FEMA will help pay for repairs or even a new car.
"We care about people having transportation. That’s what they need and that’s what we cover – essential items," said Tracey.
There’s money for glasses and hearing aids. You can get $300 for cleaning supplies. There’s even $700 for immediate, critical, life-sustaining items.
"There are so many programs within FEMA. That’s why it’s always good to go a disaster recovery center where you can talk with someone one-on-one," said Tracey.
If you need more assistance with the applications process, call the toll-free application number 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or register online at http://www.fema.gov.