LEXINGTON, Ky. -- People who have applied for a federal disaster housing assistance grant to help cover costs from the Feb. 5-6 Kentucky storms shouldn't despair if the first response they receive is negative. Every applicant has the right to appeal and, depending on the circumstances, may be able to reverse the initial ruling, said disaster recovery officials.
"A denial letter does not necessarily mean that an applicant is ineligible for assistance," said Michael Bolch, federal coordinating officer for the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "It often indicates that FEMA did not receive all the information the agency is legally required to have before providing aid. In that case, an appeal that supplies the missing information will often be successful."
Typical reasons for a denial because of incomplete information are that the applicant did not:
- Provide proof that the damaged property was the primary residence at the time of the disaster;
- Provide evidence of identity;
- Provide documentation of the disaster damage;
- Provide proof of ownership of the damaged property;
- Sign documents.
Other reasons FEMA might send a denial letter that may be appealed are that the damages and losses are covered by insurance; that the applicant has not completed and returned the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan application; or that the damages were too small to qualify for assistance.
If an applicant receives an award but believes the amount to be too low, an appeal for a higher award can be submitted with documentation to support the increased cost.
Appeals must be made within 60 days of a denial letter. Applicants or someone they designate to act on their behalf must explain in writing why they believe the initial response was wrong and provide any new or additional information and documents that support the appeal.
More information about how to appeal is in the Applicant's Guide that FEMA mails to each applicant and online at www.fema.gov. Applicants may talk with experts daily 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. local time on FEMA's toll free Helpline, 800-621-FEMA (3362), or for the hearing- and speech-impaired, TTY 800-462-7585. Applicants can check the status of their appeals by calling these same numbers or on the FEMA Web site.
"We want to ensure everyone who is eligible receives all the federal assistance they are entitled to," said Charlie Winter, assistant director of the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management. "People should not be discouraged if they need to file an appeal to be sure they access the available help."
Applicants who are denied a housing assistance grant may still be eligible for low-interest loans from the SBA and help from other state and federal programs.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.