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Tips for Working with FEMA + SBA

fema-48 Register with FEMA immediately after you have been affected by a disaster, whether you believe you qualify or not. FEMA registration can be a prerequisite to other relief. 

sba-gov-logo• While you can now register online, we still recommend calling because it is an easier process. Right after an emergency, it can be difficult to get through — so be persistent and patient, or use the online process.

• If a mobile disaster recovery center has been set up in your community, consider meeting in person with a FEMA rep to register. Also present to help you at these centers will be representatives from the SBA, Red Cross and Salvation Army, volunteer attorneys and accountants, and others.

• If you suffer from financial hardship, tell FEMA when you register. While the general rule is that, in order to receive certain kinds of financial aid from FEMA, you first need to apply for a loan from SBA and be denied, this requirement can be waived if you suffer from financial hardship. FEMA will not require you to provide tax or bank records to verify financial status.

• Fill out and return the SBA loan applications you are sent, even if you don’t want a loan or know you will be denied. You must be denied an SBA loan in order to qualify for certain kinds of FEMA aid, including replacement costs for tools of the trade (available only if an employer requires them) and personal property (you may be able to replace supplies under the personal property umbrella).

• Your application can be denied for the following reasons, and possibly others: you have no credit history; you have no ability to repay; you did not filed tax returns when required to; or you have suffered flood damage, live in a designated flood zone and did not have the required insurance coverage.

• There is now an electronic application available for SBA disaster loans.

• Questions can be answered after a disaster at 1-800-659-2955 at [email protected], or in person by an SBA rep at a disaster resource center in your community.

• The homeowners and personal loan forms are not difficult to complete, but you will need to provide descriptions of damaged property and estimates of repair/replacement costs, as well as authorizing the SBA to access your tax returns. Forms are provided for this purpose.

• The disaster business loan forms and accompanying materials are also not too difficult if you are a sole proprietor, as most artists are. The SBA provides forms to guide you. Learn about how to apply for the SBA disaster loan program.

• Always answer all questions fully and truthfully. You can be prosecuted for fraud if you don’t.

• To save yourself problems after a disaster, we highly recommend that you keep copies of tax and insurance documents, and visual documentation of your studio contents (videotape preferable), in a Safe Offsite Location  such as a safety deposit box. (See Safekeeping Your Business and Artistic Records)

• The IRS has advice, publications, and services related to disasters, and can help you reconstruct your federal tax records. You may also be able to deduct uninsured/unreimbursed losses from your taxes. After declared disasters, the IRS sometimes allows the deduction to take place in the previous year’s taxes, so you may be able to leverage some money by filing an amended return and getting a refund on your previous year’s taxes. It is important to document all losses as soon after the disaster as possible. See more info here.