Hurricane Ida caused widespread devastation to communities, homes, and businesses across the country. As a result of the destruction, President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for nearly a dozen New Jersey counties: Gloucester, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, and Union Counties.

This unlocks funding for some of the hardest-hit areas in the region.

FEMA also recently announced that federal disaster assistance is now available for qualified residents of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia, and York Counties.

If you live in one of these counties and your household was affected by Ida, you may be eligible for federal aid to help with home repairs, finding a temporary place to stay, and replacing household items. Here’s how to apply.

Note: If you have insurance, you should file a claim with your insurance company immediately. FEMA assistance doesn’t cover losses already covered by insurance.

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What you need to apply for FEMA aid

Before you apply for assistance, you need to complete a few initial steps:

  1. Take photos of your damaged home and belongings.

  2. Make a list of damaged and lost items.

  3. File a claim with your insurance company if you have insurance.

You will need to have these materials to apply:

  • Social Security Number (SSN) or the SSN of a minor child in the household who is a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.

  • Annual household income.

  • Contact information (phone number, mailing address, and damaged home address; if you want to review your registration status online after registering, you’ll also need to provide an email address).

  • Proof of ID (see a liist of acceptable documents here).

  • Insurance information (such as coverage, insurance company name), and insurance determination letter (if insured).

  • Proof of occupancy or ownership (see a lit of acceptable documents here)

  • Bank account information (if you are eligible to receive financial assistance, the money can be deposited in your account).

» READ MORE: How to file a Hurricane Ida damage claim for wind and flooding

How to apply for FEMA assistance

There are several ways to apply for assistance.

If you have internet access, you can register online at disasterassistance.gov or through FEMA’s mobile app if you have a smartphone. Enter your city, state, or zip code to make sure you’re eligible for individual assistance. If eligible, you’ll be prompted to complete an application, which asks for general information about your income, insurance, and the housing damage you’ve incurred. The application process takes about 20 minutes, FEMA says.

You can also apply over the phone by calling 800-621-3362. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability and use a Text Telephone (TTY), you can call 800-462-7585. If you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), please use the standard FEMA helpline (800-621-3362).

Your final option is to apply in person by visiting a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). To look up DRC locations, visit DisasterAssistance.gov, call the FEMA helpline (800-621-3362), or check FEMA’s mobile app.

What kind of assistance can I get from FEMA?

FEMA assistance is not a replacement for insurance. But it can provide temporary financial assistance and help with basic needs not covered by insurance for homeowners and renters.

You can get money to help cover another place to live if your home is unlivable and your insurance doesn’t cover temporary housing. You may also be eligible to get help to restore your home to a livable condition.

FEMA provides only the basic needs for a home, such as toilets, a roof, critical utilities, windows, and doors. You won’t receive money to repair or restore such things as dishwashers, cabinets, garage doors, or home entertainment systems. FEMA will conduct a home inspection to calculate and verify your damage and losses.

You may also be able to get money to help with essential needs directly caused by the disaster, such as child care, medical and dental expenses, funeral and burial expenses, clothing, specialized tools, equipment required for a job, necessary educational supplies including computers and schoolbooks, moving and storage expenses, and such items as generators or chainsaws purchased as a result of the disaster. If you have liability insurance, you may be able to get help to replace or repair your car.

What happens after I apply for FEMA assistance?

After you apply, FEMA will review your request and call to set up a time and date to assess your damage. During the pandemic, FEMA is carrying out exterior home inspections only. Interior damage will be discussed and confirmed over the phone.

At the time of inspection, you’ll need to provide a photo ID, a list of people living in the home at the time of disaster, and a list of disaster-caused damages to your home and personal property.

You’ll receive a letter or email (based on the preference marked in your application) explaining whether you’re eligible for assistance, how much you’ll receive, how it must be used, and how to appeal FEMA’s decision if you don’t agree with it. If your letter states that you’re ineligible for assistance, you can appeal the decision within 60 days of receiving the letter. If the letter says your application is incomplete, you are also given 60 days to fill in any missing parts.

How long will it take to get FEMA assistance?

Timelines vary, depending on your situation. “There are too many factors to give specific timelines, from scheduling inspections to providing documentation,” said Charlie Elison, a spokesperson for FEMA. “There are FEMA disaster assistance processing centers across the country with staff working hard to process applications in a timely manner.”

You can check on the status of your application online (disasterassistance.gov), by phone (800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585 TTY), or with a FEMA disaster survivor support specialist.

If you have any additional questions, FEMA representatives are available by phone seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. (800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585 TTY).

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