CORDELE, Ga. -- As people impacted by the storms and tornadoes proceed through the application process, questions may arise and misunderstandings can result, warn officials from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Here are some key points to remember:
If You Are Turned Down Because of Insurance
When you register with FEMA you are asked what kind of property insurance you have, if any. If you have property insurance, you may receive a letter stating that no FEMA assistance has been approved. (The letter will say, “Total Grant Amount: “$0.00,” with the reason given as “INS – insured.”)
By law, FEMA cannot duplicate insurance or pay deductibles. The letter will explain that FEMA must wait to see what your insurance settlement is and what your unmet needs are before going further with your application.
Even if you are insured, you should register with FEMA since your insurance may not fully cover your losses. If you are under-insured or have no insurance coverage at all, FEMA may be able to help.
If after 60 days your insurance claim is still pending, you should let FEMA know before the 60 days is up, explaining that this is the reason you are delaying your appeal. The important thing is to stay in communication with FEMA about your situation.
Registering with Red Cross is not the same as registering with FEMA
Even if you have received assistance from the American Red Cross, you must still apply directly to FEMA for federal disaster assistance.
The Red Cross is there in the first days after a disaster to provide for immediate needs of food, clothing and shelter. But FEMA programs are designed to help with long-term recovery, which starts with housing assistance. Federal assistance comes in the form of grants or U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, but applicants must apply specifically to each in order to be considered for eligibility.
How to Appeal
If you receive an initial refusal letter because of your insurance status or for other reasons, remember that this is only one step in the application process. The refusal may be appealed, and many appeals succeed. The appeal process is supposed to be undertaken within 60 days of receiving the refusal letter from FEMA, and may be begun only after your insurance claim has been settled.
To appeal, explain in writing why you think the decision about your case requires further consideration. Include your FEMA registration number, the disaster number found at the top of the refusal letter (1686 is the number for the current disaster in Georgia) and your insurance settlement statement, along with any other supporting documentation.
The letter should be signed by you or by someone who represents you and your household. If the person signing is not a member of your household, you must include a signed statement saying that the person may act on your behalf.
Mail the letter to:
FEMA – Individuals & Households Program
National Processing Service Center
P.O. Box 10055
Hyattsville, MD 20782-7055
Or fax your appeal to: (800) 827-8112, Attention: FEMA – Individuals and Households Program
Detailed instructions on the application and appeal process can be found in the “Applicant’s Guide to the Individuals and Household Program,” available on the Internet at: www.fema.gov/help-after-disaster.
May 2 is the deadline for registering with FEMA. Homeowners, renters and business owners who sustained losses in Baker, Crawford, Dougherty, McDuffie, Mitchell, Sumter, Taylor, War...