Q: What can FEMA help me with if I qualify for federal assistance?
A: FEMA can provide money for temporary rental assistance until other arrangements are made. If you are a renter, FEMA can help until you can move back into your former rental or relocate to a new residence. FEMA can also provide home repair or replacement funds for homeowners.
Individuals might also be eligible for assistance with necessary expenses and serious needs caused by the disaster. This would include such needs as medical, dental, funeral, personal property, vehicle repair, and moving and storage expenses.
Q: What is the most money I can get under this program?
A: The amount of a FEMA grant is determined on a case-by-case basis as determined by a verification of replacement of losses. The current maximum grant for Fiscal Year 2014 is $32,400 per household, but most grants are well below this amount.
Q: Can I use FEMA money for anything I choose?
A: No. The grants can be used only for those expenses specified in the approval letter you received from FEMA. It is a good practice to keep all receipts for three years.
Q: What does “duplication of benefits” mean?
A: It refers to an applicant receiving assistance twice (or more times) for the same item or items. The most common duplication of benefits occurs when insurance covers an item you receive assistance for.
FEMA cannot duplicate insurance, but grants can help eligible applicants with costs not covered by insurance.
Q: Does a FEMA grant become part of my gross adjusted income or affect my Social Security amounts?
A: No. FEMA grants do not count as income and will not have any effect on the amount you get from Social Security.
Q: Because of the disaster, I couldn’t file my income tax return by April 15. Will there be Internal Revenue Service consequences for the delay?
A: The IRS grants extensions for filing your income tax if you are affected by the disaster and live in any county designated in the presidential disaster declaration. Under Internal Revenue Service rules, taxpayers whose returns and payments are due April 15 can postpone the filings until May 31. Businesses who must file by March 15 or on any date before May 31 can also postpone filing until May 31.
The IRS will waive any penalties for late filings (before May 31) for individuals and businesses in the affected county. In addition, any individual or business whose necessary records are in Snohomish County and are not readily available might also qualify for relief.
Under certain circumstances, disaster-affected taxpayers who reside or have a business outside the designated county can phone the IRS Disaster help line at (866) 562-5227 to request relief. Residents within the declared areas are automatically identified by IRS software and need not file requests.
Q: I was referred to the U.S. Small Business Administration by FEMA for a loan, but I don’t want a loan. Why should I fill out the application?
A: In addition to businesses, homeowners and renters might be referred to SBA for a low-interest loan to try to fully recover losses not covered by insurance or other compensation. Applicants are under no obligation to accept a loan and there is no cost to apply. However, applying is important to insure you receive all federal assistance for which you are eligible. Everyone who receives an SBA application is encouraged to complete and return it.
Q: I am not sure if I registered with FEMA. I did talk to the Washington Emergency Management Division and the American Red Cross. Does that automatically register me?
A: No. You must register directly with FEMA to see if you qualify for help. Call (800) 621-3362 or TTY at (800) 462-7585 to register or do so online at DisasterAssistance.gov. If you haven’t registered there’s still time to apply. Anyone affected by the SR 530 Slide may register until midnight on June 2.
Q: I registered with FEMA and got a letter saying I am ineligible for disaster assistance. What do I do now?
A: Carefully read the letter you received from FEMA. You may be able to appeal that initial decision by supplying more information about your situation. If you have any questions call the FEMA help line at (800) 621-3362
One common reason for ineligibility is that the applicant has insurance and the claim is not yet settled. FEMA cannot duplicate what insurance covers, but may be able to help with uninsured and underinsured costs.
Once an applicant’s insurance claim is settled, FEMA can determine whether the applicant qualifies for additional aid. It is a good idea for applicants to follow up.
Other reasons for a determination of ineligibility include: insufficient damage; missing documentation; and incorrect contact information; the property in question is not the primary residence of the applicant; or the property is outside the designated major-disaster counties.
Q: I registered with FEMA and received rental assistance for two months, but now that has run out. What should I do next?
A: Around two weeks after you got the first rental award, you should have received a phone call or an application for continued temporary housing in the mail. That paperwork should be completed and returned to FEMA as soon as possible. If you have not received this application, and you need additional rental funds, contact FEMA immediately at (800) 621-3362.
FEMA disaster assistance may cover up to 18 months of eligible rental assistance for homeowners and renters who need to temporarily relocate. Initial rental assistance is paid in two-month increments. Rental recertification cycles run in 90- and 120-day increments or “cycles.” A review is required on a regular basis in order for survivors to remain eligible for rental assistance.
Q: I heard that the Disaster Recovery Centers in Arlington, Darrington and Oso will close May 10. How can I get an update on my application or learn more about the disaster assistance process?
A: After the Disaster Recovery Centers close on May 10, the state of Washington and FEMA will continue to work on the recovery process for as long as needed. FEMA will be available to talk to survivors one-on-one via the help line at (800) 621-3362 or via TTY (800) 462-7585. Log onto DisasterAssistance.gov for further information about assistance. On a mobile, internet-accessible device, use m.fema.gov. Operators who speak several languages are accessible on the help line.