FEMA: Over $9.5 million in Hurricane Zeta disaster assistance approved so far

The deadline to apply for disaster assistance through FEMA is March 1, 2021.

FEMA: Over $9.5 million in Hurricane Zeta disaster assistance approved so far
Hurricane Zeta made landfall to west of Mississippi on Oct. 28, 2020, damaging over 32,000 homes and causing nearly $90 million in damage. (Source: WLBT)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLOX) - Over $9.5 million in FEMA assistance has been approved for Mississippians affected by Hurricane Zeta last year.

On Thursday, FEMA released a report detailing the assistance that has been provided so far, as well as advising people who have received those funds. Other resources were also offered for anyone still in need of help.

Hurricane Zeta made landfall to the west of Mississippi on Oct. 28, 2020, damaging over 32,000 homes and causing nearly $90 million in damage.

FEMA said as of Feb. 11, 2021, a total of 2,773 individuals and households were approved for $9.77 million. Of those, $8.28 million went to help people with housing assistance. An additional $1.49 million for was approved for other disaster-related needs. The Small Business Administration has also approved 449 applicants for disaster loans totaling $12.6 million, said the release. An additional $10 million has also been paid out by the National Flood Insurance Program for 816 claims that have been filed so far.

Applying for FEMA disaster funds

Mississippi homeowners and renters in George, Greene, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson and Stone counties who had uninsured losses from Hurricane Zeta may be eligible for federal disaster assistance from FEMA. FEMA has programs that may provide financial help with temporary housing expenses, basic home repairs and other essential disaster-related needs. The deadline to register is March 1, 2021.

You can register with FEMA in several ways:

  • By visiting DisasterAssistance.gov
  • Using the FEMA App for mobile devices
  • Calling 800-621-3362 (800-462-7585 TTY). Multilingual operators are available. The toll-free numbers are open every day from 6 a.m. to midnight Central Time.
  • By setting up a disaster account with FEMA online at DisasterAssistance.gov. Once an account is created and the application is submitted, you can upload necessary documents online.

After you apply for federal disaster assistance, it is important that FEMA be able to contact you. Make sure that FEMA has your current contact information and be aware that phone calls from FEMA may appear to come from unidentified numbers. FEMA may call to obtain more information for your application or to conduct a remote home inspection in order to be able to continue processing your application.

Citizenship and eligibility for FEMA assistance

FEMA is committed to helping all eligible disaster survivors recover from Hurricane Zeta, including U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals and qualified aliens. To qualify for assistance from FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP), you or a member of your household must be U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien. If you do not meet the criteria for one of these three statuses, the household may still apply if another adult household member is a citizen or if the household has a qualified minor child.

Understanding your FEMA eligibility letter

Applicants for FEMA assistance will receive a letter from FEMA by mail or email. It is important to read it carefully because it will include the amount of any assistance FEMA may provide to you and information on the appropriate use of disaster assistance funds. You may need to submit additional information for FEMA to continue to process your application.

Examples of missing documentation may include proof of insurance coverage, settlement of insurance claims, proof of identity, proof of occupancy, proof of ownership, or proof that the damaged property was your primary residence at the time of the disaster.

If you have questions about the letter, you can get answers by going online to DisasterAssistance.gov or calling the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585).

After you apply for disaster assistance from FEMA, you may be referred to SBA. Scroll down to read more about SBA loans.

If you have been approved for FEMA disaster funds

Disaster financial assistance is intended to help residents meet basic disaster-related needs. A letter explaining what the payment is to be used for arrives once assistance was approved or within a day or two of the check or direct deposit payment. People who receive disaster funds should make sure to only use the money for its approved purpose, and to keep receipts for up to three years documenting that purchases made.

If applicants spend the payment on anything other than the purpose for which it is intended, they may be denied future disaster financial assistance. In some cases, FEMA may ask that the money be returned.

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

Business owners, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters may be eligible for low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to help recover from losses not covered by insurance, grants or other services.

After you apply for disaster assistance from FEMA, you may be referred to SBA. It is important to submit an application as soon as possible. If your application is approved, you are not obligated to accept an SBA loan. But failure to return the application will disqualify you from other possible FEMA assistance, such as disaster-related car repairs, clothing, household items and other expenses.

Applicants may apply online using SBA’s secure website at DisasterLoan.sba.gov. Or they may email FOCE-Help@SBA.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance.

For additional information about SBA disaster loans, the loan application process, or for help completing the SBA application, visit SBA’s secure website at sba.gov/disaster. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call 800-877-8339.

FEMA Public Assistance (PA)

Under the major disaster declaration, FEMA is authorized to provide Public Assistance for debris removal, emergency measures and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged public facilities such as roads and bridges, water control facilities, buildings and equipment, utilities and parks for the following counties: George, Greene, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Perry, Stone and Wayne.

For guidance on debris removal processes, residents should contact their local government.

Additional resources in Mississippi that can help

FEMA has provided a list of resources on a variety of topics where people can seek out additional assistance if they are in need. Those topics range from consumer services, like price gouging and complaints, to finding licensed contractors. Services range from crisis counseling to unemployment assistance to legal services and healthcare resources, just to name a few. Resources are also available for the elderly, the disabled, and veterans.

You can also 211 or 888-636-4211 to find resources that may be able to help with unmet needs, including food, housing, clothing, utilities, prescriptions, transportation and other disaster-related assistance.

IRS Disaster Assistance: You may be eligible to deduct the loss or partial loss of your home, household goods and motor vehicles from disaster damage on your individual federal income tax. Call the IRS Disaster Assistance Hotline: 866-562-5227 Monday–Friday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time. Visit the website at www.irs.gov/ or contact your tax professional.

Contributions: Individuals who want to contribute to Hurricane Zeta relief efforts can do so through the Mississippi Community Disaster Relief and Recovery fund, www.formississippi.org (click the donate button) or text DONATE to (601) 258-6502.

A Disaster Legal Services hotline is available to assist low-income residents with legal issues related to Hurricane Zeta recovery in Mississippi. Call 877-691-6185 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Be alert to fraud

After a disaster, fraud can occur. Sometimes, survivors who try to register with FEMA discover that someone has already registered using their name. Scammers may contact survivors who have not registered with FEMA and try to extract money or information. In these cases, it is likely the survivor’s personal data has been compromised. FEMA and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) never charge for registration, home inspections, grants, disaster-loan applications or anything else.

If you have registered and want to verify any correspondence you received from FEMA, call 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585). If you suspect fraud, call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office at 601-359-3680 or report it your local police department.

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