LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Homeowners, renters and business owners whose applications for disaster assistance may have been denied following Hurricane Rita have the option to appeal the denial they received from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
A denial letter may not be the final word; it may just mean an applicant needs to give us more information, according to FEMA spokespersons. If you have questions about FEMA's decision, you have 60 days to appeal.
Only qualified applicants may receive disaster assistance. Disaster aid may include grants for home repairs, temporary housing, or any serious needs or necessary disaster-related expenses, as well as low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) that can cover personal, residential and business losses not covered by insurance or otherwise compensated for.
The most common reasons for denial include:
- Adequate insurance coverage
- Damage to a secondary home, not primary residence
- Damage to rental real estate, not primary residence, owned by applicant
- Inability to prove occupancy or ownership
- Failure to fill out and return the SBA loan application
Sometimes a denial simply means that more information is needed before the analysis can be completed. Some applicants, who receive denial letters from FEMA, declaring them ineligible because of insurance, may be eligible later if their insurance settlement does not cover their necessary expenses and serious needs. An applicant should contact his or her insurance company and request a settlement letter that details exactly what is covered under the claim.
Guidelines for appeals can be found in the Applicant's Handbook sent to everyone who registers with FEMA.
To appeal a decision, the applicant should mail insurance settlement information as well as any new or additional information they may have acquired since the initial application for disaster assistance was filed. The mailing address is provided in the FEMA letter.
If FEMA determines an applicant is not eligible for disaster assistance funds, he or she may still be eligible for other services such as a low-interest loan from SBA or Disaster Unemployment Assistance.
The SBA is the federal government's primary source of money for long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and private non-profit organizations to fund repairs or rebuilding efforts, and to cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. SBA disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recovery programs.
For additional guidance on the appeal process, or other questions applicants have about their disaster assistance application, the FEMA Helpline is available at 800-621-3362 (follow the prompts) all day, seven days a week.
FEMA prepares the nation for all hazards and manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, trains first responders, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.