Old Colony Elder Services, (OCES) one of 27 private, non-profit Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) in the Commonwealth, serves 23 towns in Southeastern Massachusetts and urges both residents and business owners who are dealing with severe storm damage and loss to take action quickly and register immediately for state and federal disaster aid.
According to officials at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), homeowners, renters and business owners who suffered disaster-related damage or loss should call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) registration line at 800-621-FEMA (3362). Multilingual operators are available. Individuals with hearing and/or speech impairments can call 800-462-7585. Online registration is also available at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
OCES and MEMA advise residents/business owners to register even if you are insured because insurance coverage may not be adequate and some foundation damage may not appear until later. Disaster assistance covers a wide range of losses. Structural damage or repair is covered, as is damage or loss of essential personal property, such as a major appliance or medical equipment (wheelchairs, etc).
OCES advises that once you have registered, there are several very important action steps you need to take. According to guidelines established by MEMA:
Keep critical appointments. A FEMA-contracted inspector will make an appointment to visit your home, usually within a week. Make every effort to be at home or authorize an agent to be present. Use the Helpline option at the FEMA registration toll-free numbers for contact updates, including your agent’s name, a new phone number, or to change appointment times.
Return all forms promptly. After registering, you may receive a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan application package in the mail. Fill out and return these forms promptly since they are an essential part of the disaster-assistance process.
Stay in touch. Use the Helpline for answers to your questions about federal assistance; this is the same number you called to register for aid.
Have realistic expectations. You should not expect disaster assistance to restore you to pre-disaster conditions. It is intended to help you get safe, sanitary housing and meet other critical needs so you can begin your long-term recovery.
Read all FEMA letters and documents. Applicants deemed eligible for disaster assistance will receive a letter from FEMA providing guidance on their disaster relief grant. It will tell you about ways the money can be spent in your recovery. Be advised that federal assistance may have to be repaid if it is duplicated by insurance or other assistance received.
Talk to FEMA if you have questions, especially about insurance. If you receive a FEMA letter stating your application has been denied, it often means that one or more aspects of your application require further information or correction. An “INS-Insured” denial does not necessarily mean “case closed,” it means you must first settle with your insurer to prevent any duplication of payments.
Keep FEMA in mind after your insurance settlement. You may have been underinsured and some uncompensated losses may be eligible for some form of disaster aid. Call the Helpline if your insurance settlement is delayed, if it does not cover all of your loss, if you can’t find rental housing in your area, or if your additional living expense benefits are exhausted. Remember, failure to file a claim with your insurer within 12 months can affect your eligibility for FEMA assistance.
Rebuild with disaster prevention in mind. Before starting any repairs or reconstruction, check with local building officials on required permits and inspections. If you were displaced from your home and incurred hotel or motel expenses, save your receipts and check with FEMA on possible reimbursement.
“Many people were affected by the recent ”hundred year’ storm. We strongly urge anyone who suffers from property damage or loss (which even includes the loss of medications, medical equipment or supplies) to act quickly in order to obtain speedy assistance,” noted Diana DiGiorgi, Executive Director of OCES.
Contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) registration line at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For the hearing or speech impaired, call 800-462-7585. Or, register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. Seniors, their families and caregivers who have addtional questions or need further assistance are encouraged to contact OCES at (508) 584-1561.
FEMA’s mission is “To support citizens and first responders and to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.” To contact FEMA, call their 24-hour line (508) 820-2000.
Incorporated in 1974, Old Colony Elder Services is one of 27 private, non-profit Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
OCES offers a number of programs to serve seniors, individuals with disabilities, their families and caregivers such as Family Caregiver; Adult Family Care; Supportive Housing; Nutrition; Money Management; Protective Services; Home Care and more.
OCES offers these programs in the towns of Abington, Avon, Bridgewater, Brockton, Carver, Duxbury, East Bridgewater, Easton, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Kingston, Lakeville, Marshfield, Middleboro, Pembroke, Plymouth, Plympton, Rockland, Stoughton, Wareham, West Bridgewater and Whitman.
The organization’s mission is to provide services that support the dignity and independence of elders by helping them maximize their quality of life; live safely and in good health; and, prevent unnecessary or premature institutionalization.