When Salina Wang and her husband Zengwang Hao’s SUV was flooded during Hurricane Sandy, the Queens, N.Y., couple applied for FEMA assistance but received an initial determination of ineligibility.
Wang and Hao followed up with FEMA and provided additional documents supporting severe needs and necessary expenses. FEMA recently granted the couple more than $3,800 to fix their car.
“That is the only car we have,” Wang told FEMA, “and we cannot afford to buy a new one. We have elderly parents who need to be taken care of. My husband drives the car to take them to shop, visit friends, etc.”
Wang and Hao’s success underscores how important it is for other New York survivors who registered with FEMA by the April 13 deadline to stay in touch.
Just because a survivor receives a letter from FEMA stating he or she is ineligible for assistance, it doesn’t necessarily mean his or her case is closed. Letters of ineligibility tell survivors how to appeal the decision and what additional information they need to provide to FEMA in order for their case to be reviewed again. Survivors must submit an appeal within 60 days of the date of their determination letter.
When survivors apply for individual disaster assistance through FEMA, their needs are assessed based on a number of factors, including eligibility requirements under federal law. Sometimes people don’t qualify for financial help right away. Survivors should read letters from FEMA carefully. Some of the reasons for being initially turned down can be easily remedied by:
- Calling or writing to FEMA once an insurance settlement is reached
- Providing additional information such as proof of ownership or residence
- Providing records showing the damaged property was the primary residence at the time of the disaster
- Signing essential documents.
Appeals should include new or missing information, documents and damage repair estimates that support the appeal request.
It is important to date the appeal letter and mail it to:
FEMA - Appeals Officer
National Processing Service Center
P.O. Box 10055
Hyattsville, MD 20782-7055
Appeals may also be faxed to: 1-800-827-8112.
You can also call the helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585.
The important thing is to keep in touch with FEMA. Letters of ineligibility are often just the start of a conversation between applicants and FEMA, not the end. Wang contacted FEMA, provided the necessary documentation and her family eventually got the $3,800 grant to repair the car she and her family depend on.
“It is important to keep in contact with FEMA,” she said.