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Tips given for those feeling pain of Dennis

By Staff
Although several weeks have now passed since Hurricane Dennis blew through Alabama and Florida, the need for assistance in the aftermath of that storm has not subsided.
In fact, while many areas of south Alabama were fortunate to have not received too much damage, there are many other areas – particularly in our inland counties – that were more directly impacted by the wind and rain associated with this storm. It has certainly been difficult, especially for those who haven't yet fully recovered from Hurricane Ivan in September of last year.
In the time since the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) have been working closely with the affected areas to provide them with as much support and assistance as possible. This week, I wanted to provide those of you who are still seeking assistance with some additional information which I hope proves helpful.
It is very important that you contact FEMA as soon as possible to initiate a claim for financial assistance. The formal disaster declaration issued in the aftermath of the storm included very specific filing deadlines for the two types of assistance – individual assistance and economic injury disaster loans – available from the federal government.
Your first phone call should be to FEMA to determine whether you are eligible for assistance through either of these programs. FEMA can be reached by calling 1-800-621-3362.
Along with the typical forms of financial assistance, residents of Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties may also be eligible for additional services through the Alabama Bar Association (ABA).
The ABA recognizes that there may be instances where the hurricane may lead to lost documents, probate matters, or disputes between landlords and their tenants. Volunteer lawyers with the ABA have made themselves available to provide free legal advice to those who may have questions about these or other legal situations. One of these attorneys can be reached for a consultation by calling 1-800-354-6154.
In addition to legal assistance, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also issued a release that individuals and families affected by the storm may be eligible for an income tax refund based on casualty losses. According to the IRS, qualified taxpayers in the counties included in the official disaster declaration may receive refunds for taxes paid on income for either 2004 or 2005, depending on which of these two years will provide the most benefit.
IRS Publication 547, Casualties, Disasters, and Thefts, provides a great deal of information on how certain income factors and the year used in filing can produce faster or larger refunds. You can speak directly with an IRS representative by calling 1-800-829-1040.
Finally, I wanted to announce that individuals and families who apply for assistance through FEMA can now track the progress of their application and receive an expected payment date. To register to use this site, please visit https://www1.disasteraid.fema.gov for further information.
Jo Bonner represents the people of this area in the U.S. H ouse of Representatives.