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FEMA Denial Letters: Not Always the Final Word

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Release date: 
November 18, 2011
Release Number: 

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA, -- Disaster survivors, after registering for disaster assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), sometimes receive a FEMA denial letter in the mail stating "ineligible."

If this happens, do not be alarmed or discouraged.

FEMA requires homeowners and renters to provide insurance and other information at the time of registration. But FEMA also understands that after a disaster documents may not be readily available or may have been destroyed. That’s why applicants for disaster aid can update their information about insurance and residency at any point during the application process.

Receiving a “denial” letter from FEMA does not necessarily mean an applicant is not eligible for disaster aid, even when the letter states “ineligible” or “incomplete.” It can be an indication that further information is needed, or that the applicant’s insurance claim needs to be settled first before disaster aid can be granted.

An ineligibility letter sent by FEMA will specifically explain why an application needs to be revisited. It might ask for insurance settlement documentation for property damaged or destroyed, or documents reflecting proof of occupancy or ownership of the damaged property.

“Ineligible” often means “reconsider.”

Although FEMA cannot provide assistance for temporary housing, home repairs or replacement when aid is available from another source, such as private insurance, FEMA may still be able to assist disaster survivors with losses not covered by insurance, even after a private insurance claim is settled.

There are a number of ways registrants can update FEMA:

  • Call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362);
  • Those with a speech disability or hearing loss can use TTY 1-800-462-7585;
  • Call 711, or use Video Relay Service (VRS) to call 1-800-621-3362;
  • Online at;
  • By Smartphone at;

(FEMA registration lines are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.)

  • By visiting the Pottawattamie County Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) at the American Red Cross Human Services Campus, 705 N. 16th Street, Council Bluffs. (Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., M-F.)

FEMA and the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division (HSEMD) also recognize that even when homeowners and renters are covered by insurance, they may still have unmet housing needs. Applicants who have used all of the rental funds provided by their insurance company, or if their insurance settlement is delayed longer than thirty days, may appeal to FEMA for rental assistance.

After registering with FEMA, most residents and business owners will receive an application for a low-interest disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). These loans are available to homeowners, renters, businesses of any size and private, nonprofit organizations for their uncompensated disaster-damaged property. SBA also makes disaster loans available to small businesses and most private nonprofits to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster, whether or not the business had property damage. 

SBA loans can include the insurance deductible; FEMA grants, however, cannot be used for insurance deductibles. Additionally, SBA applicants do no need to wait for their insurance to be final to apply for an SBA loan.

For information on SBA disaster assistance, call SBA at 1-800-659-2955, or visit Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals may call TTY 1-800-877-8339. Applican...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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