Federal Assistance Deadline for NJ Approaches [AUDIO]
It's been more than three months since Hurricane Irene, and now time is running out for New Jersey families, individuals and businesses to register for federal assistance related to the August storm.
The deadline to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency is Wednesday, November 30. The same deadline applies to loan applications for the U.S. Small Business Administration.
There are three ways to register: go to http://www.disasterassistance.gov/, m.fema.gov or call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-3362 (FEMA). Telephone lines are open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET; multilingual operators are available.
Mary Goepfert with the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management urges folks to register even if they are unsure the damage would qualify for assistance.
She explains, "If down the road, you find that there's long-term damage - mold or foundation damage - you can always go back and reopen that claim if FEMA denied it at first. But if you don't mention it, then you have lost that opportunity."
As of late last week, FEMA had already approved over $245 million worth of claims.
"That is a very large number," says Goepfert. "There was a lot of impact on that storm. It's the largest individual assistance storm that we've had in New Jersey in our history."
Most of the funding has gone toward housing-related costs - rental assistance, home repairs, and essential item repairs.
Goepfert says the approval process is very quick once a claim is made.
"After you register, an inspector will come out within a couple of days. Usually if you're approved for some type of assistance, the preference is to route it to your savings or checking account, and that usually happens fairly quickly," Goepfert explains.
Goepfert warns that FEMA will look for information on what one's insurance company has already paid or not paid for. She says the agency is very careful about making sure there is no double-pay on claims.