ATLANTA -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) wants every survivor of the severe storms of April 27 and 28 to receive the maximum assistance for which they are eligible.
But, officials said, there are some things FEMA can’t do, such as duplicate insurance payments or fill in the blanks on missing information.
"Putting your life back together after a disaster is difficult," said Gracia Szczech, federal coordinating officer for FEMA. "While the process of securing assistance from FEMA is intended to be simple, it’s easy to understand how sometimes crucial information is overlooked or missed."
FEMA encourages everyone who had storm damage in Georgia’s federally declared disaster area to register for assistance. After that, keeping the lines of communication open is an important part of the process.
"It’s a two-way street," said Szczech. "FEMA can’t offer assistance to survivors who – for whatever reason – have not provided all the necessary information."
After registering, survivors know within seven to 10 days whether or not they will receive assistance – but only if all necessary information has been provided. That notification comes by mail.
If eligible, the letter explains how much the grant will be, and what it is intended to be used for.
If ineligible – or if the grant amount reads "0" – this letter will describe what steps are necessary to resolve your status. For help, you can call FEMA’s helpline or go to a disaster recovery center and speak face-to-face with a recovery specialist.
For some survivors, the status of their request for federal assistance is dependent on insurance settlements and the need for additional information.
FEMA looks at a number of things to determine if a survivor can receive disaster assistance. But the agency must be able to:
- Verify an applicant’s identity.
- Verify damages. If you believe the inspector didn’t see all of your damages, call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362.
- Verify home occupancy. Applicants need to provide proof of occupancy such as a utility bill.
Additionally, you may receive a letter from FEMA denying your eligibility if you missed an appointment with an inspector or failed to return paperwork to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Call the Helpline to understand why you were denied assistance. Changing your eligibility may be as simple as supplying missing paperwork or providing additional information.
"FEMA personnel are here to help," said Szczech. "Keep in touch. Use the Helpline. You’ll get answers to your questions and help with understanding the assistance process, and ways to move your personal recovery forward."
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.