March 3 tornado damage, Holly Street. Photo: Chuck Allen

FEMA Tornado Relief and You

Application deadline is May 4

Given the incredibly swift manner in which the COVID-19 pandemic changed our world over the last few weeks, the March 3 tornado that carved a path of destruction across Nashville and Middle Tennessee can seem like ancient history — except to those who are still dealing with its effects on their everyday lives.

If your home or business was affected by the tornado, help is still available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Homeowners and renters in Davidson, Putnam, and Wilson counties may continue to apply for assistance through May 4, 2020. As of March 29, FEMA has already approved more than $1.31 million in disaster grants for 429 Tennessee homeowners and renters who sustained uninsured or underinsured losses from the storms, including more than $968,000 in housing grants to assist people in rebuilding or repairing their homes and to provide the means for a safe place to stay while they consider their long-term housing options and $345,000 in grants for Other Needs Assistance to survivors.

After you apply for disaster assistance from FEMA, you may be referred to the Small Business Administration. If you receive an SBA disaster loan application, you should fill it out and return it. If your application is approved, you are not obligated to accept an SBA loan. But failure to return the application will disqualify you from other possible FEMA assistance, such as disaster-related car repairs, clothing, household items, and other expenses. The SBA has approved more than $5 million (as of March 29) in disaster loans to businesses and households.

More funds are still available to those who qualify, but you must apply before the May 4 deadline. The FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585) is staffed daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. CDT. You can use the Helpline to register with FEMA for assistance, update your information on a previously filed claim, appeal a FEMA decision, and more.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, FEMA has implemented a streamlined inspection procedure. Survivors who sustained minimal damage and can still live in their homes will be contacted by FEMA inspectors who will complete the inspection process over the phone rather and scheduling an in-person inspection.

For those that have already applied, FEMA may call you to follow up on their application for disaster assistance. These calls may appear on the applicant’s phone as coming from unidentified phone numbers. This is a result of FEMA specialists teleworking due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

FEMA and the SBA never charge for registration, home inspections, grants, disaster-loan applications or anything else.

On all official FEMA calls, the representative will state the applicant’s FEMA identification number, telephone number, address of the damaged property, and the last four digits of the applicant’s Social Security number. Applicants who feel uneasy about talking to callers on unidentified phones may instead obtain application status updates online at DisasterAssistance.gov, download the FEMA app from fema.gov/mobile-app, or call the disaster assistance helpline at 800.621.3362 (TTY 800-462-7585).

For relief through the SBA:
Applicants can apply for a low-interest disaster loan online using SBA’s secure website at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.
Survivors can get more information on SBA disaster assistance. Call SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800.659.2955 (TTY 800-877-8339) or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

Download the March 30 FEMA Daily Fact Sheet here