JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Don't despair if you received a letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stating that you have been denied for disaster assistance. It may be that FEMA cannot complete the assistance evaluation process until you supply additional personal information or insurance information.
An applicant may be denied assistance for various reasons, including insufficient storm-related damage or adequate insurance coverage. It's important that even if you have registered with FEMA, you call and keep them informed of any changes in your status. Also, be sure to call to update personal information or additional insurance information.
"A denial may mean that FEMA does not have all the information needed to make a decision regarding the applicant's disaster aid," said Michael Karl, federal coordinating officer for FEMA operations in Missouri. "Remember that this first letter may not be the last word."
There are several reasons why an applicant may receive a denial letter; many are easily fixed. The most common reason is that the applicants are insured. Indicated as "INS" or "IINS" on the denial letter, it simply means that FEMA requires more information on the insurance settlement before a final decision can be made.
Other common reasons for denial letters:
- The applicant did not provide or sign the required documents.
- The applicant did not prove occupancy or ownership.
- The damage is to a secondary home or a rental property, not a primary residence. (By law, applicants are eligible for FEMA disaster assistance only if the damage is to their primary residence ??-- where the person usually lives and was living at the time of the disaster.)
- Someone else in the household has already applied and received help.
- The applicant registered before the disaster was officially declared for their county. (If this applies to you, be sure to call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) to verify your status.)
If FEMA determines that applicants are not eligible for a federal grant, they may still be eligible for other assistance such as a low-interest disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, disaster unemployment assistance, and tax assistance.
"Federal disaster assistance is designed to help with uninsured or under-insured losses caused by the disaster," Karl explained. "The disaster funds give many a starting place or 'hand up' to begin the recovery process."
An applicant also has the right to appeal a denial in writing within 60 days from the date of the decision of the letter. Guidelines for appeals can be found in the "Help After a Disaster" handbook that each applicant receives. Applicants can also get guidance on this issue at any Disaster Recovery Center or by calling the FEMA Registration Helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585. Lines are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.
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.