Monday, November 24, 2008

Aid Available for Wildfire Victims

The federal disaster declaration for the wildfires that began Friday, Nov. 13, opens the door for recovery assistance for residents of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and Santa Barbara counties, according to officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES).

Disaster assistance may include:

  • Grants from FEMA for rental payments for temporary housing, if not covered by insurance, if you cannot live in your home or apartment. Initial assistance may be provided for up to two months for homeowners and at least one month for renters. Payments may be extended after the initial period based on a review of your needs.

  • Grants from FEMA for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary and functional.

  • Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) which can cover uncompensated losses for personal property, including automobiles, up to $40,000 for both homeowners and renters, and up to $200,000 for homeowners for physical damage to their primary residence. SBA loans also may be used to pay for insurance deductibles.

  • Low-interest business loans are also provided by SBA for up to $2 million for uncompensated physical losses suffered by businesses of any size and private, nonprofit organizations. Additionally, working capital loans are available for economic injuries sustained by small businesses and most private, nonprofit organizations of all sizes in the declared counties and the adjoining counties. The combination of the two business loans cannot exceed $2 million.

  • Grants from FEMA and the State of California to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by your insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs.

  • Grants administered by the California Department of Social Services' (CDSS) State Supplemental Grant Program (SSGP) may assist with eligible items not already addressed by the FEMA grant, SBA or insurance. Individuals who receive a maximum FEMA grant will have their applications automatically transferred to SSGP for consideration. Additional information is available by calling 1-800-759-6807.

  • Loans from the Farm Service Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence.

  • Tax relief guidance for people and businesses affected by the wildfires is provided by the Franchise Tax Board (FTB). California matches the postponement period announced by the Internal Revenue Service giving affected taxpayers an automatic postponement to Feb. 11, 2009, for returns that would have been due between Nov. 13, 2008, and Feb. 11, 2009. Taxpayers who have questions can call FTB toll-free at 1-800-852-5711, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

How to Apply for Assistance:

If you live in one of the declared counties, you can apply for aid from FEMA, SBA and the state by phone from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. To register, call (800) 621-FEMA (3362) or go online at (TTY 800-462-7585). Completing the application takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes. You don't have to visit a Local Assistance Center (LAC) to register.

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