The Valley Fire moves along a hill. Courtesy Cal Fire

It was announced Friday that homeowners or renters affected by the Valley Fire in September can apply for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant through Dec. 15.

The grants are designed to help with serious disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance such as rent, home repair or replacement, medical or dental costs, transportation or other personal property losses.

Residents or businesses can also apply for a low-interest loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Due to the pandemic, FEMA has put its assistance process online and has a telephone helpline. For those requiring in-person assistance, FEMA will have staff present as the Rancho San Diego Library on Thursday, Oct. 29 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday, Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The library is located at 11555 Via Rancho San Diego in El Cajon.

To begin the grant application process, residents must first register with FEMA by visiting or calling the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 between 7 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. The helpline has specialists who speak various languages.

Grant applicants will be asked to give the need for funding and the following information:

— Social Security number;
— Address of the damaged primary residence;
— Description of the damage;
— Information about insurance coverage;
— A current contact telephone number;
— An address where they can receive mail; and
— Bank account and routing numbers for direct deposit of funds.

FEMA grants do not have to be repaid. FEMA assistance is nontaxable and will not affect eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid or other federal benefits.

Registering for federal aid through FEMA is required, even if homeowners, renters or business owners have registered for assistance with other disaster-relief organizations such as the American Red Cross. Residents should register even if they have insurance since FEMA may be able to assist with underinsured losses after the claims are settled.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is also offering low-interest disaster loans and has established a virtual Disaster Loan Outreach Center staffed from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. A customer service representative can answer questions about the loan program, explain the application process and help residents and business owners complete their electronic loan application. To contact the SBA representatives, either email them at or call 1-800-659-2955.

— City News Service