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story.lead_photo.caption Mark Wilson/News Tribune A crew from Ameren size up tornado damage on Lafayette near the Missouri State Penitentiary May 25, 2019. The tornado occurred during the May 22 night storm that rolled through town.

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Do not wait to apply for federal disaster assistance.

That was the top advice from representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration, both of which are offering various assistance to those impacted by recent natural disasters in Missouri.

Last Tuesday, President Donald Trump approved Missouri's request for a major disaster declaration for 20 counties impacted by flooding, tornadoes and severe storms since April 29.

This made federal disaster assistance available to residents in Cole, Boone, Miller, Osage, Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Carroll, Chariton, Greene, Holt, Jackson, Jasper, Lafayette, Lincoln, Livingston, Pike, Platte, Pulaski and St. Charles counties.

Additional counties may be added as FEMA receives and validates more damage-assessment information, said Mike O'Connell, communications director for the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

People with serious damages should register for federal assistance as soon as possible, FEMA spokesman John Mills said, especially since the deadline to register with FEMA is usually 60 days after the date of the disaster declaration.

FEMA assistance

Grants through FEMA could help with temporary rental assistance, basic home repairs and replacing personal property, among other items.

Homeowners and renters can register for grants by calling 1-800-621-3362 or visiting People with speech and hearing impairments should call 1-800-462-7585. Telephone registration is available 7 a.m.-10 p.m. every day.

Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams through FEMA also began going door-to-door in the impacted neighborhoods in all 20 counties last week to help residents register and provide information about available assistance, Mills said.

By law, FEMA cannot duplicate insurance payments, Mills said, so people should file their insurance claims first. However, people can register regardless of whether they have insurance.

When registering, residents should provide their current address, address of the damaged property, contact information and Social Security number, as well as information about the makeup of the household, insurance and their income.

Individuals should also document their damaged items by making lists and taking photos and videos, according to a joint news release from FEMA and the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency.

After applying, someone with residential damage could receive a call within one to five days from a contracted FEMA inspector to set up an appointment at the person's damaged building, Mills said.

Those who have full insurance coverage and do not need federal assistance may not receive inspector visits, he said.

At the time of the inspection, an adult must present photo identification, home and/or auto insurance, proof of ownership or occupancy of the damaged residence, a list of individuals living in the residence at the time of the disaster, and disaster-related damage to real estate and personal property.

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If a resident or property owner needs to reschedule the appointment, he or she can call 1-800-621-3362 and choose the Helpline option, according to the news release.

All FEMA inspectors and DSAT members will have official FEMA photo identification badges. If an inspector or DSAT member can't produce a FEMA ID, Mills said, the resident should not provide personal information or let the person inside the home. He or she should also contact law enforcement.

The inspection could take 30-40 minutes, and the inspector will not provide a determination at that time of how much assistance the homeowner or resident may receive.

FEMA will send a determination letter either through mail or email, typically within 10 days of the inspection. If the inspector asks for more information following the inspection — such as a letter from the insurance company about the resident's claim — it may take longer for the resident to receive an eligibility letter, Mills said.

For those who are eligible, the letter will state the grant amount and how the money must be used, according to the news release.

"Money has already been approved for inspections that were done yesterday," Mills said Friday. "In some cases, the money can be approved quickly and in a matter of days. In a lot of cases, money will be approved in less than 10 days, but it can vary because we work with everybody on a case-by-case basis."

The letter will also include information on how to appeal FEMA's decision if the resident disagrees with the determination.

FEMA may also open a disaster recovery center in or near Jefferson City, O'Connell said, but he was unsure when that would occur.

While the FEMA grants will help, O'Connell said, they are not meant to "make people whole again."

"It's meant to get people in initial recovery help early on in the process," he said. "If you have a $250,000 house and you didn't have insurance on it, it's not going to pay for that, but it's generally a few thousand dollars that can help out with needed home repairs that can help get the home habitable again or a temporary place to stay while home repairs are made."

Loan assistance

The SBA offers low-interest loans to businesses, renters, homeowners and nonprofits in areas impacted by declared disasters. Individuals can apply for disaster loan assistance by visiting or calling 1-800-659-2955.

The SBA and the Missouri Small Business Development Center are partnering to open an SBA Business Recovery Center in Jefferson City on Wednesday. The center will be located at the Small Business Development Center at Lincoln University, at 917 Leslie Blvd.

The center will be open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, SBA Public Information Officer Corey Williams said.

Businesses and nonprofits can apply for a business physical disaster loan for up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster-damaged real estate, machinery, inventory and equipment, Williams said.

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Business owners and nonprofits can also apply for economic injury disaster loans for up to $2 million to help small businesses and most nonprofit organizations meet their financial obligations that can't be met during the recovery period of a disaster, he added.

Collateral will be required for physical loss and economic injury disaster loans or more than $25,000 each, Williams said.

The interest rates for business loans are as low as 4 percent and have a five-month deferment, he said. The interest rate for nonprofits would be 2.75 percent, he added.

The SBA also offers home disaster loans to homeowners and renters to repair or replace disaster-damaged real estate and personal property, including vehicles. The loan can go up to $200,000 to repair real estate and up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property, Williams said.

The home loan's interest rate can be as low as 2.063 percent and have a five-month deferment.

The deadline to apply for physical damages loans is Sept. 9, and the economic injury disaster loan application deadline is April 9, 2020, according to a Friday news release from the SBA.

While the business recovery center is considered a "one-stop shop" for business owners and nonprofits to apply for the loans, Williams said, homeowners and renters who have registered with FEMA and received a referral to the SBA can complete their home loan applications at the center.

When applying for the loans at the center, Williams said, "bring yourself."

"If you know your Social (Security number) and address and basic information, you don't really have to do anything but bring yourself," he said. "If there are other supplemental documents that a business owner may need such as their tax returns or some of their financial documents, we will give them extra time, but the main thing is to get their application in the system before the (Sept. 9) deadline."

If someone is waiting for insurance, Williams said, he or she can still apply for an SBA loan.

"Once they get approved for the loan and they get insurance maybe three or six months down the line, hopefully sooner, they could turn around and pay back the SBA loan," he said.

It may take two to three weeks before homeowners or renters see the funds, Williams said, adding it may take four to six weeks for businesses and nonprofits.

Williams said the business recovery center will remain open "as long as the need exists."

Gov. Mike Parson declared a state of emergency in Missouri on May 21 following severe weather and flooding. On May 22, tornadoes struck Jefferson City, Eldon and Carl Junction.

This is the second disaster declaration Trump has issued for Missouri in less than two months. He approved a major disaster declaration May 20 to help local governments and nonprofits in Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Carroll, Chariton, Holt, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Perry, Platte, Ray and Ste. Genevieve counties.

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