FEMA teams visiting Tampa Bay area counties to help Irma victims

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) –– Outreach teams from FEMA are now visiting Florida communities affected by Hurricane Irma.

The teams are working in federally designated counties, including counties in Tampa Bay, to help residents register for disaster assistance and to quickly identify and address immediate and emerging needs.

FEMA has designated the following counties as those that are eligible for assistance: Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, Columbia, DeSoto, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Sumter, Suwannee, Union, Volusia

The visiting FEMA teams can also provide application updates and referrals to additional community resources for remaining needs.

The mobile team members can be easily identified by their federal photo identifications and FEMA clothing. Florida residents are reminded to ask for photo identification before providing personal information.

Housing inspectors contracted by FEMA will also be working in disaster-designated counties, inspecting damage sustained by survivors who have already registered with FEMA. When FEMA-contracted inspectors arrive at a home, they will display official photo identification. If the photo identification is not displayed, it is important to ask to see it. This helps prevent fraud.

RELATED: A guide to FEMA aide for Hurricane Irma victims

Please keep in mind FEMA employees do not solicit or accept money from disaster survivors. Many legitimate disaster assistance employees may visit your property such as insurance agents, damage inspectors, and FEMA and U.S. Small Business Administration staff.

Here are some tips to remember to safeguard against fraud:

  • Ask to see ID badges. All FEMA representatives wear a federal photo ID badge. A FEMA shirt or jacket is not proof of identity. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with anyone you encounter, please contact local law enforcement.
  • Beware of people going door-to-door. People knocking on doors at damaged homes or phoning homeowners claiming to be building contractors could be con artists, especially if they ask for personal information or solicit money. Be sure to verify federal ID badges of disaster assistance staff who may visit your home.
  • How to identify FEMA Disaster survivor assistance teams. The teams are in affected communities providing disaster assistance information and helping survivors apply for FEMA aid. They are wearing FEMA shirts and federal photo IDs. Disaster survivor assistance teams never ask for or accept payment for their services.
  • FEMA does not have “approved” contractors. Beware of contractors who say they are affiliated with FEMA. Don’t sign anything you don’t understand or contracts with blank spaces.
  • Federal workers do not solicit or accept money. FEMA staff never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or help with registration.

If you have knowledge of fraud, waste, abuse or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.

Always use licensed and bonded contractors and ask for credentials. Use Florida contractors if you can. You can verify a Florida contractor’s license online at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Never pay for anything in advance of work being done. If you have a complaint about anyone soliciting your business, contact the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Florida counties designated for FEMA Individual Assistance include: Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, DeSoto, Duval, Flagler, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Sumter, and Volusia.

Survivors who sustained damage or losses caused by Hurricane Irma in those counties can begin applying for assistance online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling FEMA’s helpline at 800-621-3362 for voice, 711 and video relay service (VRS). Survivors who are deaf, hard of hearing or who have difficulty speaking and use a TTY, should call 800-462-7585. The lines are open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET until further notice. Survivors may also register by downloading the FEMA mobile app.

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