New information continues to flow in about resources available to Iowans in the aftermath of the Aug. 10 derecho storm.
On a federal level, Linn County residents, along with residents of 10 other counties, have been approved for individual assistance.
With individual assistance approved for residents of Linn County, those that have already applied for the assistance should be receiving their letters on whether they were approved or not.
For those that receive a rejection letter, it’s important to read past the rejection.
“Some people have a tendency to read the letter, and it says you’re not eligible for assistance, and they might get frustrated and toss them aside,” FEMA Spokesperson Sharon Karr said.
However, if the whole letter is read, the reason for the rejection could be minor and easily reconciled. Rejections can come for reasons like a social security number not being able to be verified, receipts being needed, proof of occupancy, like providing a utility bill, or a form of identification.
FEMA has also established a hotline, which can be reached at 1-800-621-3362, to assist with any questions from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The phones are manned seven days a week and will be until further notice.
For those approved for individual assistance, they may also qualify for lodging assistance if the house is not habitable. It’s important to document damages with videos and pictures and keep receipts if hotels were needed.
If individuals do get approval but are not happy with the amount, the helpline can also walk them through the necessary steps that they need to take in order to appeal. Appeals must be submitted within 60 days.
For those that haven’t yet submitted their documents for individual assistance, a Disaster Recovery Center has opened in Linn County. Due to COVID, it is operating differently than normal. The center is located at the parking lot in between Cedar Rapids Kernels Stadium and Kingston Stadium at 950 Rockford Rd. SW, Cedar Rapids. Cars can enter the parking lot from the corner of Veterans Memorial Drive and Kurt Warner Way. The center will be in operation Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Those coming to the center are asked to pre-register ahead of time either by going to DisasterAssistance.gov, downloading the FEMA mobile app or calling the previously mentioned hotline at 1-800-621-3362. Information needed includes: address and zip code, condition of damaged home, insurance information, social security number, phone number where you can be contacted and a mailing or email address.
In addition to individual assistance, people will be on hand to assist from the Small Business Administration.
Due to coronavirus, it is a drive-thru center. Masks will be required and the public will need to stay in their car.
Those looking to apply for individual assistance have 60 days to apply from the date the federal individual assistance was approved, which was Aug. 20.
As people start to rebuild, it’s important to be sure to look out for those trying to take advantage of people and make sure contractors are reputable. For those looking to double-check a contractor, they can ask if they’re registered with the Iowa Workforce Development Division of Labor Services. Registrations can be checked through their website, or by calling 1-800-5624692 or 515-242-5871.
Karr said it’s always good to get estimates in writing and to verify if someone claims to be a FEMA agent.
“We have very few people on the ground right now. We’re almost all virtual. If someone says they’re FEMA, they’re going to have a FEMA ID badge and it’s going to have a little gold chip implanted in it,” Karr said. “If they don’t have a FEMA badge, they’re probably not FEMA.
Jones County process ongoing
Jones County has not yet been approved for individual assistance at the federal level, but approval can happen any time in the 60-day period after the declaration is made. However, if approved, individuals will only have what is left of the 60-day window to apply, the approval window does not start at 60 days for every new county approved.
Jones County Emergency Management recently announced that more documentation is being accepted for damages to homes and Coordinator Brenda Leonard said they will be going out for more assessments.
To qualify, individuals would need to prove major damages or that homes were totally destroyed. Major damages include structural failure of walls, roof, foundation that is repairable or damages to windows, doors andexterior walls. “Destroyed” homes include the complete failure of two or more major structural components such as collapse of basement walls, foundation, walls, roof or the building being condemned.
Those that meet the criteria are asked to email email@example.com with their address, photos of damages and a statement of being under- or uninsured
Just because the county hasn’t received approval yet, doesn’t mean it can’t come.
“We have add-ons throughout,” Karr said. “You never know.”