TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Volusia County residents who have applied for federal disaster assistance should not despair if the first response they receive from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is a letter disallowing the application.
A denial letter does not necessarily mean an applicant cannot receive state-federal assistance. It may simply mean FEMA did not receive all the information the agency is required by law to have before providing financial aid using public funds. In that case, an appeal that supplies the missing information may be successful.
In all instances, the reason for ineligibility is clearly identified in the denial letter. Often, a determination of applicant ineligibility is simply the absence of a signed declaration and release form. Another reason concerns insurance. FEMA cannot provide assistance if it is available from another source, including insurance. Assistance programs are not intended to duplicate insurance compensation for disaster-related loss or damage.
If an insurance settlement does not cover all of the disaster-related losses, applicants have the right to ask FEMA to review the initial decision to determine if other forms of assistance are available.
Other reasons FEMA might send a denial letter could be:
- Failure to provide proof of home ownership at the time of the disaster, which results in an ineligibility for FEMA home repair or replacement help;
- Failure to keep appointments with the housing inspector who must evaluate disaster-related losses;
- Failure to provide proof the damaged property was the applicant's primary residence at the time of the disaster. Applicants receiving denial letters may visit either of the two Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) in Volusia County to talk with FEMA recovery specialists about any reasons cited for ineligibility.
When visiting the center, providing a copy of the denial letter will help the specialist in preparing an update to the initial application.
Current locations are: Holly Hill Community Recreational Center
1046 Daytona Ave.
Holly Hill, FL 32117
308 South Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd.
Daytona Beach, FL 32114
Another source of helpful information is the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585 for people with a speech or hearing impairment. The helpline is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time seven days a week. Multilingual customer service representatives are available. Applicants also may register or check the status of their application on the agency's Web site, www.disasterassistance.gov.?
A Right to Appeal
Every applicant has the right to appeal a determination of ineligibility. Depending on the circumstances, appealing the denial may result in a reversal of the denial. The appeal process is explained in detail in the denial letter the applicant receives. Officials stress that applicants should not be discouraged if they need to file an appeal. Once the applicant files a written appeal FEMA will review the application to determine if there is eligible assistance available.
An appeal may also be requested when an applicant receives an award but believes the amount to be too low. Substantiation must be shown to support this appeal as well.
Appeals must be made within 60 days of the date on the ineligibility 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.
FEMA leads and supports the nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation, to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the nation from all ...