As we begin the 2014 hurricane season, which officially began on June 1 and ends , my Senate office stands ready to serve you in the event that a storm hits Florida and our people require federal assistance.
While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a quiet storm season this year, history shows that even one storm can drastically impact our lives.
Hurricane awareness is vital to preparing for a hurricane. The best time to make sure you have all your personal property and business paperwork in order and safely protected is now, when the storm forecast is clear and we aren’t scrambling to secure food, water and other basic necessities.
Should the need arise, knowing how to access federal assistance and sorting through any relevant information makes dealing with the potential after-effects of severe weather a little easier. And should disaster strike, it’s comforting to know that there are organizations ready to help you with any questions or financial concerns you may have.
In severe cases, some federal agencies that offer recovery assistance include the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
If assistance is available, FEMA encourages you to register with them before going to a center. You can verify that you qualify and register online at DisasterAssistance.gov, via Smartphone at m.fema.gov or by phone at 800-621-3362.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, businesses and most private nonprofit organizations. To qualify for an SBA disaster loan, you must first make sure you are in an SBA declared disaster area. While each SBA disaster loan has its own criteria, most loans require similar documentation that you will need to gather and prepare. Again, the time to make sure you are organized and have all your paperwork in order is now.
Some things to keep in mind about seeking disaster-related financial assistance includes credit factors – which lenders take into consideration when reviewing your application. You should also assess your current financial standing to determine how urgent your financial need would be. Small business owners who may not qualify for traditional loans can seek assistance from other economic development agencies. As hurricane season gets underway, the key is to have a contingency plan in place to ensure you aren’t caught off guard and don’t face any unnecessary delays in attaining federal assistance.
In an effort to encourage hurricane preparedness, Florida residents are able to buy hurricane supplies, ranging from portable generators to flashlights, without having to pay for the state’s 6% sales tax. This tax holiday for hurricane supplies begins , and I encourage you to take advantage of this policy to help you and your families get prepared.
Should you need further assistance throughout this year’s hurricane season, my staff is available to help you at any of our offices throughout Florida. They are happy to answer any questions you may have, or put you in contact with someone who can.
This hurricane season, we ask that you be prepared, stay safe and stay informed. I am honored to serve you.