It doesn’t hurt to ask

Published 1:15 am Sunday, November 6, 2011

When it comes to the different forms of assistance available to disaster victims, the best course of action is to ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Small Business Administration and local emergency-management agencies about such assistance.
Many disaster victims do not know there are several aid programs for which they may be eligible.
Renters who lost their place to live and personal property because of Hurricane Irene’s effects on North Carolina may be eligible for state and FEMA disaster grants to help them recover from the storm.
To determine what assistance is available, call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585) or go online at Smartphone and tablet users may connect at
One type of grant may cover the cost of temporary housing if a renter has to move to another place. Grants also may be available to replace personal property.
A renter may borrow up to $40,000 to replace damaged or destroyed personal property. Disaster victims are not required to borrow money.
A renter who needs help locating a place to live may get information by calling FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 and pressing the helpline option. People with computers may go to and click on “3 Step Guide for Assistance,” then scroll down and click on “Housing Portal.”
To insure against future losses, renters may obtain flood insurance for contents. Information is available from insurance agents or the National Flood Insurance Program by phone toll-free at 1-888-379-9531 or online at
Crisis counseling and free legal aid to help with disaster-related questions, such as landlord/tenant disputes, are available. Crisis-counseling services are available to people affected by Hurricane Irene. Counseling for all ages may be arranged by calling 1-866-451-7760 between 8 a.m. and midnight, seven days a week.
As for legal assistance, storm victims who can’t afford an attorney and who run into a legal snag because of the hurricane may call 1-800-662-7407 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ask for disaster legal services and a volunteer attorney will call back in 48 to 72 hours.
Disaster-related legal assistance is offered by the North Carolina Bar Association. The Young Lawyers Division of the North Carolina Bar Association is providing volunteer attorneys to help with legal complications that arise from the hurricane. Examples include:
• Advice regarding landlord/tenant issues.
• Replacement of lost legal documents.
• Advice about contracts disrupted by the hurricane.
• Help with insurance disputes and other legal complications caused by the disaster.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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