While insurance payments will probably help most Florida and Virginia storm victims, government grants and low interest loans will be available to help pay for the costs insurance policies don't always cover. Advertisement

The federal government is making $2 billion available to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help rebuild Florida properties damaged by Hurricanes Charley and Frances in Florida and Tropical Depression Gaston in the Richmond, Virginia, area.

FEMA will provide homeowners in 27 Florida counties with grants averaging $3,500 per claim, based exclusively on the amount of out-of-pocket expenses of documented damages on individual and family residents, focused on temporary repairs and emergency assistance to get the residents back on their feet, Eager said. The grants typically cover temporary housing and the final cost for home repairs in addition to the amount covered by homeowners insurance.

To apply for assistance, call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). The speech or hearing impaired may call (TTY) 1-800-462-7585. 

"The double whammy of Charley and Frances has devastated Florida homeowners with a combination of wind damage as well as flooding," said John Eager, senior director of claims for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). "A FEMA grant can be invaluable, especially for those whose homes have suffered damages from both storms."

However, Eager noted that FEMA is "not likely to hand out grants to people with adequate insurance coverage just to defray their deductible."

"These grants are for hard-hit Floridians who sustained heavy damage from both storms and have the paperwork to prove it," he said.

Individuals applying for a FEMA grant should get a written estimate from their insurance adjuster, itemizing repairs needed, coverage limits for contents, and the deductible. This written estimate provides FEMA with the final cost of the damages, which is needed to determine entitlement.

Although FEMA only makes grants available to homeowners, small business owners hit by the hurricanes can apply to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for a loan to repair their businesses. And in some cases, individuals operating their own home-based small businesses may even be able to qualify for a SBA loan to cover what FEMA does not, Eager added.