ALBANY PARK — For homeowners still recovering from April's record rains and flooding, the good news is that help, in the form of money, is on the way.
President Barack Obama has issued a disaster declaration for 11 counties in Illinois, including Cook County, making federal funds available to affected individuals.
To qualify for assistance, anyone who suffered property loss or damage needs to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, either online at www.disasterassistance.gov or by phone at 800-621-3362.
Dan Shulman of FEMA's regional office encouraged everyone who might remotely have a claim to register.
"Don't self-select yourself out of the process," he said.
Grants, which max out at $31,900, can cover home repairs, replacement of essential household items and even payments for temporary housing for those forced out of their homes.
"We work with each person on a case-by-case basis," said Shulman.
After registering, homeowners may be contacted by FEMA to set up an appointment for an inspector to visit the dwelling.
"A FEMA inspector will always call first," Shulman said, warning residents to be wary of fraud.
Another tip to avoid being fleeced: "Someone from FEMA is never going to ask for money," he said.
Nor does FEMA approve contractors. "Call 9-1-1," Shulman advised, in the event a con artist claims to be FEMA-licensed.
Applicants will ultimately receive a letter from FEMA stating whether a claim has been accepted or not.
Shulman cautioned: "Don't throw it out." What might initially appear as a rejection letter may, in fact, include a request for additional information prior to approval.
If approved, a homeowner can expect to receive funds in less than a week, he said, particularly those who register early in the process.
FEMA is spreading the word about the disaster declaration via media outreach, partnerships with local officials and Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams, which are canvassing the hardest hit areas and passing out flyers door to door.
Said Shulman, "We're relying on word of mouth."