How federal assistance works

Assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies is available under certain conditions for individuals, families and businesses.

According to the FEMA website http://www.fema.gov/you-apply FEMA can provide assistance for losses that are not covered by insurance, and the assistance is only available in counties that have been declared federal disaster areas.

FEMA announced on Nov. 26 that federal disaster aid has been made available to the state of Illinois and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms, straight-line winds, and tornadoes on Nov. 17.

President Obama's action last week declaring Illinois a major disaster area makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Champaign, Douglas, Fayette, Grundy, Jasper, La Salle, Massac, Pope, Tazewell, Vermilion, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, Will and Woodford counties.

According to the website, the money is intended to help with what it calls "critical" expenses, not to restore a property to its condition before a disaster.

According to a FEMA announcement http://1.usa.gov/1dOwRld money will be available as follows:

— Rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable. Initial assistance may be provided for up to three months for homeowners and at least one month for renters. Assistance may be extended if requested after the initial period based on a review of individual applicant requirements.

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

— Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs. FEMA will pay 75 percent of total eligible costs, with Illinois paying the other 25 percent.

— Unemployment payments for up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the tornado and who do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed individuals.

— Low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance. Loans are available for up to $200,000 for primary residences and up to $40,000 for personal property, including renter losses. Loans are available for up to $2 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance.

— Loans for up to $2 million for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster's adverse economic impact. According to the website, a cash flow loan, in combination with a property loss loan, cannot exceed a total of $2 million.

— Loans for up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding the primary residence.

— Other available programs include crisis counseling for those traumatized by the disaster; income tax assistance for filing casualty losses and advisory assistance for legal, veterans' benefits and Social Security matters.

Affected individuals and business owners in designated areas can begin the disaster application process by registering online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or by web enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov.

According to FEMA, the application process takes about 18 to 20 minutes to complete. People needing help with the registration can call FEMA's technical help desk at 1-800-745-0243.

Here's some of the information you will need to fill out the application:

— Social Security number

— Insurance information, including the types of insurance coverage you have.

— Financial information including your family's gross total household income at the time of the tornado.

— Address and phone number where the damages took place, your current mailing address and phone numbers where you can be contacted.

— Electronic funds transfer direct deposit information. This one is optional.

If authorities determine you are eligible for assistance, you will be asked for your banking information, including the bank's name, type of account, routing number and account number.

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