FEMA UPDATE: How many residents helped by FEMA, looking out for scammers

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OUACHITA PARISH, LA (KTVE/KARD)– As it’s only been a few weeks since Hurricane Laura blew through Louisiana, FEMA has taken action to make sure residents are supported through these hard times.

As of Sunday, 21 parishes are part of the disaster declaration due to Hurricane Laura. Caddo, LaSalle, and St. Landry Parishes were added to the other 18 parishes on the disaster declaration list. Those three parishes can now apply for federal disaster assistance for uninsured and underinsured damage and losses resulting from hurricane laura.

FEMA officials say they have had more than 140 thousand residents register in Louisiana. More than $89 million have gone back into the hands of survivors statewide, including $59 million for housing assistance and almost $29 million for other needs assistance. However, closer to home, the process is just getting started.

“In Lincoln and Ouachita Parishes, we’ve registered 6,500 residents with nearly a million dollars back into the hands of survivors of those two parishes,” said Melissa Wilkins, FEMA Region 6 Public Affairs Specialist.

FEMA officials say many residents haven’t applied yet due to already registering with FEMA for a previous disaster.

“FEMA considers each disaster a separate event. So survivors affected by multiple storms can receive help more than once from the agency,” said Wilkins.

But when a natural disaster strikes, so do scammers. It’s important to be cautious so people don’t take advantage of you or your situation. FEMA officials say when survivors register, they will get a FEMA ID number. This ID number can help you know you’re talking to an actual FEMA worker.

“A lot of times, people who are trying to take advantage of others will ask for your social security number and that’s not something FEMA would do. If we need you to verify something or ask a question about your account, we would ask for the FEMA ID number,” said Wilkins.

In addition, FEMA workers will be wearing a vest that has “FEMA” written on the back, along with a badge with their picture on it. If you suspect a scam, you can call the “FEMA Fraud Hotline” at 1-866-720-5721 or contact local law enforcement.

FEMA says they are working with the state to have the disaster declaration expanded. However, this takes time as every piece of damaged property has to be assisted and reported correctly.

FEMA has also set up a drive-thru Disaster Recovery Center at the Monroe Civic Center to help Ouachita Parish Hurricane Laura survivors. Anyone in the parish affected by the hurricane can drive-through and have documents scanned into their FEMA case file. FEMA officials say locals need to register for FEMA at the same time they register with their insurance company. You need to have the address of the structure or home that was damaged, a good phone number to be reached, and a list of disaster-damaged items; like cars or refrigerators. In addition, survivors can still register even if they have relocated out of Louisiana The drive-through Disaster Recovery Center will be at the Monroe Civic Center seven days a week from 7 am to 5 pm, no appointments are necessary.
You can register by calling 1-800-621-FEMA, applying at disasterassistance.gov, or by downloading the FEMA app.

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