BRIDGEPORT – College students may be eligible for several kinds of disaster relief, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The assistance will help cover expenses related to securing temporary housing and other expenses resulting from Hurricane Sandy. FEMA aid is not taxable.
“Sandy did not discriminate between homeowners and renters," said Federal Coordinating Officer Albert Lewis. “We’re here to help everyone who is eligible for assistance and that definitely includes renters.”
Renters Assistance is designed to help people who lost their home as a result of the storm meet temporary housing expenses, FEMA spokesman Mike McCormick said. The grants are for a 30-day period until renter’s homes are again habitable or they find another home.
Both renters and homeowners may also be eligible for Other Needs Assistance, designed to help survivors with uninsured or underinsured necessary expenses and serious needs caused by the disaster, McCormick said. These grants can be used for disaster-related medical and dental expenses; replacement or repair of necessary personal property lost or damaged in the disaster, such as room furnishings or appliances, and tools and equipment required by the self-employed for their jobs; primary vehicles and approved second vehicles damaged by the disaster; and disaster-related funeral and burial expenses.
McCormick stressed that some people will need to submit Small Business Administration loan application in order to qualify for Other Needs Assistance grants. “If you get one, fill it out and return it – even if you don’t own a business and don’t want a loan. That application will tell us if you qualify for the Other Needs Assistance.
The deadline to register for FEMA assistance is Dec. 31. Survivors can register online anytime day or night at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, or with a smartphone or other Web-enabled device at m.fema.gov. Survivors can also register by phone anytime by calling FEMA at 800-621-3362. The TTY number is 800-462-7585. Multilingual operators are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Wait for the English message to finish to reach multilingual operators.
FEMA has established three Disaster Recovery Centers in the Greater Bridgeport area where people who have registered for assistance can go for more information or help with questions or problems. The centers are located at Housatonic Community College, 900 Lafayette Blvd., Bridgeport; the Fairfield Senior Center at 100 Mona Terrace, and the former Simon Lake School in Milford at 65 Devonshire Road.
McCormick emphasized that the Internal Revenue Service has relaxed its rules for people impacted by Sandy. It has extended deadlines for filing next year’s (2012) returns and is allowing people to file amended 2011 returns that include casualty losses from the storm. In addition, it is allowing access to retirement accounts without the usual penalties.