FEMA promises to help flood victims — but federal aid is limited

Litzy Gutierrez, her mom, and their family have lost everything in the basement apartment they rented in Woodside, Queens.

"We just basically have just our pictures and our documents," Gutierrez said. "That's literally everything we have."

And she said that so far FEMA has not visited their street.

The federal agency said it is not your savior after a disaster whether you have insurance or not.

"FEMA has limitations on what we can provide," FEMA spokesman Brett Walsh said. "If you're looking to us to be your only source of recovery, it's not going to be a good road for you."

FEMA is brought in to help support city and state governments in providing assistance whether it's helping to either pay your rent or for a hotel for a short period of time. But before FEMA can help you, you have to file a claim with your insurance company under either a homeowner's insurance or renter's insurance policy. Once your insurance company lets you know how much money you are getting, then you can register with FEMA.

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If you don't have insurance, register with FEMA immediately.

"If you don't have insurance, go ahead and apply and then we'll make a determination for what you can be eligible for," Walsh said.

FEMA says the best way to register is online at DisasterAssistance.gov. You can also call 800-621-3362.

But if you do not have a working cell phone or computer or don't own them, you have to find FEMA or they have to find you through their pop-up disaster recovery centers in hard-hit communities.

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"Within the next week, we will have announced fixed sites to tell you exactly where they will be," Walsh said. "We literally are doing inspections today and tomorrow to make sure we have sites set up."

In the meantime, FEMA teams are currently going door-to-door in some areas to help people apply for FEMA aid.

"We have no desire to slow this process down," Walsh said. "We exist to make sure we can get money to people's hands."



DisasterAssistance.gov | 800-621-3362

New York State DFS

Disaster and Flood Resource Center | 800-339-1759