FEMA Disaster Letters May Require Follow Up

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Release date: 
March 29, 2012
Release Number: 

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn -- Tennessee residents who applied for disaster assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a result of the Feb. 29 - March 2 tornadoes, will receive letters about where they are in the application process, what to do next or how they should spend grant money. 

If survivors have questions about a letter they receive from FEMA, they should call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362 (V/Relay) (TTY at 800-462-7585) or visit a disaster recovery center. They can use the same phone number to find the nearest center. They can also locate a center online at www.fema.gov/drclocator or by visiting m.fema.gov with a smartphone or tablet.

Applicants should not be discouraged if they receive a letter indicating they are ineligible. FEMA may simply need additional information or documentation. 

Under federal law, FEMA cannot duplicate assistance that comes from insurance benefits or other government sources but FEMA’s initial determination of ineligibility may change if private insurance or other government assistance is not sufficient to cover all eligible damage. For example, many applicants may still be awaiting a settlement from their insurance company.

FEMA letters provide an explanation of what steps need to be taken to change the status of a disaster assistance request. Applicants are encouraged to call the FEMA helpline or to take the letter to a disaster recovery center for help with the appeals process. Applicants have 60 days from the date of the letter to file an appeal. 

FEMA looks at a number of things to determine if a survivor can receive disaster assistance. The agency must be able to:

  • Verify an applicant’s identity. If they have lost an ID during the storm, disaster recovery staff can make referrals regarding replacement documents.
  • Verify damages. If they believe the inspector didn’t see all of their damages, they can call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362 or visit a disaster recovery center.
  • Verify home occupancy. Applicants need to provide proof of occupancy, such as a utility bill. They can bring the bill to a disaster recovery center, where recovery specialists will help them.

Survivors may also receive a determination letter from FEMA about their eligibility if they missed an appointment with an inspector or failed to return paperwork to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

That’s why it is so important to give good contact information – such as a cell phone or work number – and stay in touch with FEMA.

If survivors receive a low-interest disaster loan application from the U.S. Small Business Administration, they must complete and return it as soon as possible in order to be referred to other FEMA programs. Survivors do not have to accept a loan if one is offered but completing the loan application process may open the door to other kinds of assistance. The deadline is May 15, 2012.

Survivors who sustained damage in the storms and have not registered with FEMA are urged to do so even if they have insurance. There are several ways to register:   

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, cal...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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