FEMA to help homeowners after hurricane


| mchan@queenscourier.com |

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Queens homeowners who suffered damages as a direct result of last month’s Hurricane Irene may now qualify for federal assistance.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared the county a disaster area, allowing individual residents, business owners and non-profits to apply for reimbursement from necessary expenses and compensation from repairs.

“We went out and performed what we call a preliminarily damage assessment, where we go and look at neighborhoods that were affected based on 3-1-1 [calls],” said FEMA spokesperson Gary Weidner. “Queens warranted enough damages to qualify for federal assistance.”

For those who qualify, FEMA aids in temporary housing, vehicle repairs, home renovations not covered by insurance — including household items like room furnishings and appliances — and other disaster-related medical and dental costs.

Before a determination on eligibility can be made, FEMA will first send an inspector to investigate damage claims. The inspector will then file a report.

“It may not make them whole again, but what it will do is help make the house safe and secure,” Weidner said.

As of September 15, FEMA announced that it will also provide assistance to residents who have become unemployed because of the hurricane. Under the Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) program — among a few eligibilities — those who were injured in the disaster and are unable to work, or those whose workplace or mode of transportation were destroyed, can apply for weekly benefit payments.

The deadline for the DUA program is October 12. Benefits are payable through March 4, 2012. To apply, first file for regular employment insurance with the New York State Department of Labor at 1-888-209-8124.

To register for housing assistance or for more information, call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or visit www.disasterassistance.gov. Be sure to have your social security number and insurance information.