Power is back for most, roads are clearing and mountains of debris are being hauled away, but for many Middle Tennesseans the path to recovery from the Super Tuesday tornadoes will be long and confusing. There are donations and insurance claims to sort through — and there’s federal assistance.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has set up mobile units in some of the hardest hit areas, and its sister organization, the Small Business Administration, is beginning to do the same.
So who gets what from where? WPLN News spoke with representatives from both agencies to help sort it out.
Who does FEMA serve?
FEMA’s Deanna Frazier says they are “really looking at people who are uninsured and underinsured.” That includes renters. She says “your first line of defense” is homeowner’s insurance, and after that FEMA can help with unmet needs that insurance won’t cover. FEMA can also help if you are totally uninsured.
But I’m still not sure I’m eligible.
Fill out the forms anyway. Frazier says let the agency determine what you may be or may not be eligible for. It doesn’t cost anything to register and only takes 15 minutes to complete online or over the phone.
How do I connect with FEMA when the storm has left me disconnected?
Call 1-800-621-FEMA or visit www.disasterassistance.gov. There are also field operatives with iPads and mobile units in North and East Nashville, Hermitage and Cookeville.
Where can I do this in person?
FEMA has staffers at four disaster recovery centers, where survivors can receive aid items and apply for assistance from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.:
- East Park Community Center, 600 Woodland St., Nashville, TN 37206
- Hadley Park Community Center, 1037 28th Ave. N., Nashville, TN 37208
- Hermitage Community Center, 3720 James Kay Lane, Hermitage, TN 37076
- Hyder-Burks Agricultural Pavilion, 2390 Gainesboro Grade, Cookeville, TN 38501
- Lee Chapel AME Church, 1200 Dr. D.B. Todd Jr. Blvd., Nashville, TN 37208 (application intake only)
- Gentry Building, Wilson County Fairgrounds, 945 E. Baddour Parkway, Lebanon, TN 37087
What can FEMA help me with?
The No. 1 thing for most people is rental assistance. They can also help with grant money for “limited home repair as well as to replace some personal property.” Their aid is not for landlords. FEMA is “in the business of assisting families and households.”
How long will I have to wait for a check?
It’s “a case-by-case basis,” but Frazier says it usually takes “as little as 21 days to get from point of registration until you have that money in your checking account.”
What if a person says they’re with FEMA, but they’re asking for money?
They’re not FEMA. There are no costs associated with filling out the forms or for damage assessments. Unfortunately, scammers and shady contractors follow in the wake of any disaster, and while Frazier did not know of any specific cases in Middle Tennessee, she says its likely inevitable. Once you fill out a FEMA form, you get a nine–digit code and that is the only thing a FEMA inspector will ask for upon arrival. Frazier says if someone asks you for personal information, that’s a big red flag and you should call the police.
What else should I know?
FEMA is “just one part of the recovery puzzle” which includes their partners at the Small Business Administration (information here), as well as local and state agencies, as well as nonprofits.
More on that below, in audio and Q&A format:
But I’m not a business.
Yes, the ‘B’ stands for business, but the SBA’s Tamim Choudhury says “80 to 90% of their applicants during disasters are homeowners and renters.” He says the first step is filling out forms with FEMA, and if they refer you to the SBA, “please fill in the forms.” Choudhury says while the word loan scares some folks off, you don’t have to take the loan, there’s no application fee and no closing costs.
How much can I get from the SBA?
For homeowners, the federally subsidized loans can be as low as 1.56% and go up to $200,000 for a primary residence. For businesses, the loans can be up to $2 million. In Choudhury’s words, if the grant money or insurance settlement you receive is not enough, the SBA loan is designed to “make you whole again.”
What about churches?
Nonprofits, including churches, can also apply for SBA loans. There were more than a dozen churches in Nashville alone impacted by the storms.
Where can I find the SBA?
There is a mobile Business Recovery Center at Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church in North Nashville. It will operate from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. The center is primarily focused on serving businesses but can also deal with SBA home loans. The agency is also looking at other sites in Wilson and Putnam counties in the coming days.