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Flood assistance

nashville_flood.gi.top.jpgA car sits in flood water near the state capitol building on left on May 5, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. By Jen Haley, producer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Floodwaters swallowed up hundreds of homes in Tennessee. And residents there are just beginning to pick up the pieces. If you or someone you know has been affected by the floods, there is assistance available through disaster aid programs.

If you live in a flooded region, you may be eligible for grants from the government to repair and replace household items not covered by insurance.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is offers low-interest loans of up to $200,000 for primary residences and $40,000 for personal property. Keep in mind that if you are uninsured and you get assistance from the government, you will be required to purchase flood insurance to receive federal assistance in the future, says Mike McCartin, an insurance agent in Maryland.

If you need medical or transportation help, there are other grants you may be eligible for.

If you lost your job temporarily because of the disaster and you don't qualify for state benefits, you may be able to collect unemployment for up to 26 weeks.

There's also crisis counseling and income tax assistance if you're filing casualty losses.

If you are in one of the counties that has been declared a disaster zone, you can apply for assistance by registering online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA. The toll-free telephone number is available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time.

Aside from basic information like your name, address and phone number, you should have information about any insurance coverage you may have and any other documents that can help substantiate your losses -- like receipts or photos.

Flood insurance isn't covered in a standard homeowners' policy. But you can purchase it directly from the government's National Flood Insurance Program, or through your insurance company. The coverage does have its limits. You can get up to $250,000 for the house and $100,000 for what's inside it. On average, that will cost you $500. If you want more coverage, you can get extra flood insurance through private insurance companies.

While you can buy flood insurance at any time, there is a 30-day waiting period after you have already applied and paid the premium before coverage takes effect.

To gauge your home's risk of a flood, go to floodsmart.gov and take a risk profile. It's not only residents who live in high risk areas who should consider buying flood insurance. "We see more and more flooding in areas that are in a low to moderate risk," says Jeanne Salvatore of the Insurance Information Institute. "Ninety percent of all natural disasters have some form of flooding associated with it," she says.

Talkback: Have you filed an insurance claim for a natural disaster? To top of page

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