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By Donnie Ryan, County of San Diego Communications Office

Photo: Valley Fire, by Ron Kasper Dronesystems

December 9, 2020 (San Diego's East County) -There is only one week left for San Diego County homeowners and renters affected by the Valley Fire in September to apply for a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant, as the assistance program is scheduled to end Dec. 15.

The FEMA grant program is designed to help with serious disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance such as rent, home repair or replacement, medical or dental costs, transportation or other personal property losses.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FEMA grant process can be done entirely online or via a telephone helpline. To begin the grant application process, residents must first register with FEMA either by visiting DisasterAssistance.gov, downloading the FEMA app on your smartphone or tablet or calling the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7595) between 7 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. everyday. The helpline has specialists who speak various languages.

Grant applicants will be asked to give the need for funding and the following information:

  • Social Security number
  • Address of the damaged primary residence
  • Description of the damage
  • Information about insurance coverage
  • A current contact telephone number
  • An address where they can receive mail
  • Bank account and routing numbers for direct deposit of funds

FEMA grants do not have to be repaid. FEMA assistance is also nontaxable and will not affect eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid or other federal benefits.

Registering for federal aid through FEMA is required, even if homeowners, renters or business owners have registered for assistance with other disaster-relief organizations such as the American Red Cross. Residents should register even if they have insurance, since FEMA may be able to assist with underinsured losses after the claims are settled.

Some San Diego County residents, business owners and private nonprofits may also be eligible to apply for a low-interest loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

The SBA is still offering low-interest disaster loans and has established a virtual Disaster Loan Outreach Center staffed from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. A customer service representative can answer questions about the loan program, explain the application process and help residents and business owners complete their electronic loan application. To contact the SBA representatives, either email them at FOCWAssistance@sba.gov or call 1-800-659-2955 (TTY 1-800-877-8339).

For more information about the disaster loan program, potential applicants may also email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov or visit SBA.gov/disaster. More Valley Fire disaster assistance information is available at sdcountyrecovery.com or by emailing ValleyFireRecovery@sdcounty.ca.gov.


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