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Those needing tornado damage assistance must register with FEMA

Following a disaster, survivors sometimes hear inaccurate, incomplete or misleading information about disaster assistance. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urge Tennesseans in the 10 counties, which includes Johnson County, affected by recent tornadoes, severe storms and flooding to get the facts now from TEMA and FEMA.
“We don’t want anyone to miss out on available assistance because of wrong information,” said Jim Bassham, director of TEMA.
FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer W. Montague Winfield stressed that anyone with damages in the designated counties should apply for assistance. “The only way to ensure you get the help you are entitled to is to register with FEMA,” he said.
The best way to register for FEMA assistance is online at or by calling FEMA’s toll-free registration number (800) 621-FEMA (3362), or for the hearing- or speech-impaired TTY (800) 462-7585. The registration lines are available daily from 7 a.m. to
10 p.m. local time. Recovery specialists offer help in most languages.
Susan Soloman, information officer with FEMA, reminds residents of the importance of applying for assistance. A disaster recovery center has been opened at the Johnson County Chamber Park, 5379 Highway 67 West, in Mountain City, to help those whose homes or businesses were affected by the recent storms and tornadoes. “The center is open from 8:30am until 8pm every day,” said Soloman. “We urge anyone who has any damage to call 1-800-621-3362 and apply.” According to Solomon, approximately 50 people have already been served at the Johnson County center, which was set up on Monday, May 9th.
“Make sure you call your insurance company and file a claim first,” said Solomon, “then your next call should be to FEMA.”
There is some information to have on hand before making the call. This includes: the address of your damaged home or apartment, names of people living in your household, a description of your disaster damages, your insurance information (including policy number, agent’s name and contact information), your Social Security Number and the way your name is listed on your Social Security card, an address where you can get mail, and your bank account information (including type of account, i.e. checking or savings, account number and routing information).
“Within a few days an inspector will call and set up an appointment to come out and look at the property,” Solomon explained. Solomon says residents should expect aid in about 10 days to two weeks.
Federal-state disaster assistance can include grants for rental assistance and home repairs, low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals recover from the disaster. “It is extremely important to complete a loan application with the Small Business Administration, stressed Solomon, as many options are available to those who are not eligible or who have been turned down for these types of loans. Also, just because someone might be eligible for a low-interest loan, does not require a loan to be taken.
Since President Obama declared a major disaster for the state of Tennessee on May 1, families and individuals who suffered damage from the tornadoes and severe storms of May 1 have been approved to receive $1.8 million in assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State of Tennessee.
Following are some of the most common questions and/or misconceptions regarding assistance, with answers from TEMA and FEMA:
Do I need to go to a Disaster Recovery Center to register for state/FEMA assistance?
You may, but you are encouraged to register online or by calling FEMA directly. At the recovery center, you can obtain additional services, get help with your registration and, answers to specific questions, and check on the status of your registration. No money or checks are distributed at DRCs.
I reported my damages to my county emergency manager and/or to the Red Cross or other agency. Does that mean I’m registered with FEMA?
“No.” The only way to register with FEMA is online by calling FEMA’s toll-free registration number.
I received FEMA assistance after storms last year. Can I receive more assistance this year?
If you have damages from the recent storms, you may be eligible for new assistance.
There are people who need the help more than I do, so I’m not going to register.
You are not depriving anyone else of help by registering yourself. FEMA has sufficient funding to cover all eligible losses.
I have insurance. Should I still register for aid?
FEMA may be able to help you with disaster-related costs that your insurance does not cover. The only way to be eligible is to register with FEMA.
Representatives from TEMA and FEMA already looked at my property and asked me questions. Doesn’t that mean I'm registered?
You may have seen representatives of local, state or federal agencies during damage assessments. The only way to register for assistance from FEMA is online or by calling FEMA.
I’d like to apply for help from FEMA but I’m afraid it will affect my Social Security or other government benefits.
FEMA grants do not affect eligibility for any other benefit program or the amounts received from other programs. The grants are not reported to the IRS as income.

Jill Penley's email – [email protected]