Frequently Asked Questions
What type of individual assistance is available in a disaster?
Insurance is the primary source of recovery from a disaster. If a survivor is uninsured or underinsured, available assistance will depend on the scope and magnitude of the disaster. If the event is below federal government disaster declaration thresholds, assistance may be available from state agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and members of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). If the event is severe enough to warrant a Presidential Disaster Declaration for Individual Assistance, two primary federal programs offer disaster assistance:
- FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP) provides money and direct services to those affected by a major disaster. Requirements must be met to qualify for help from this program.
- The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)provides low-interest loans for damage to property owned by homeowners, renters, businesses and private non-profit organizations that are not fully covered by insurance. SBA’s Administrator may issue an SBA-only declaration based on at least 25 homes and/or businesses that sustained at least 40% uninsured property damage.
Should a survivor make repairs to damaged property or wait until all inspections have been completed?
A survivor should begin by making temporary repairs needed to prevent further damage only. Insurance adjusters generally must see the damages to evaluate the loss. A survivor should take pictures of the damage and keep all of the receipts for materials used in emergency repairs. After the insurance adjuster has seen all damages and the survivor has documented all damage with photographs, necessary repairs can then begin.
What should a survivor do if he or she does not know the name of his or her insurance company?
If a survivor does not know the name of his or her insurance company, the survivor should contact his or her insurance agent, who should have a copy of the survivor’s policy with all pertinent information. If the survivor does not have an agent, or the agent cannot be reached, the survivor should check with his or her mortgage lender. A survivor’s bank may also have records of pertinent insurance information. The survivor should check bank records for canceled checks or records of electronic payments. If the survivor used a credit card or check card to pay the premium, check those records as well.
When should I report my claim to my insurance company?
You should report your claim as soon as possible.
I was required to evacuate my home. I have had no damage. Will my insurance company pay for the cost of my temporary housing?
Most homeowner's policies provide Additional Living Expense coverage when the policyholder is required to leave their home by order of civil authority during a disaster, but you need to check the type of coverage you have under your specific policy. If you do not have a copy of your policy, contact your agent or company to find out if you are covered.
I did not have renter's insurance. Will my landlord's policy cover my personal property?
Unfortunately, the answer is no, unless the landlord specifically named you in his/her policy as a covered insured. You may wish to seek assistance from one of the agencies that provide funds for uninsured or underinsured losses.
Where can I get information about flood insurance?
- Call a local, licensed casualty or property insurance agent or call the National Flood Insurance Program at 1-800-427-4661.
FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY (FEMA) ASSISTANCE
FEMA told me to send in my receipts. What is the mailing address?
Please mail all correspondences to the following address:
Mail: FEMA - Individual and Households Program
National Processing Service Center
P.O. Box 10055
Hyattsville, MD 20782-7055
Fax it to: 1-800-827-8112
Please write your name, social security number, disaster number and registration number on all pages of your document and keep a copy for your own records.
What should I do with my receipts for damage repairs?
Keep all receipts for repairs and file the loss with the IRS on your income tax return. FEMA also requires that receipts be kept for at least 3 years, because they are subject to audit if you received a FEMA assistance grant.
What happens if I register more than once for disaster assistance over the internet?
Completing more than one registration in a single disaster will delay the processing of your case. If you have suffered damage caused by two separate disasters, you may register for each. Be certain to select the correct disaster on the first page of the registration application.
Appeals— Appeals must be in writing and mailed within 60 days of FEMA's decision.
I received a check from FEMA. What can I use the money for?
FEMA sends you money to meet your housing and personal property needs related to the disaster. You will receive a letter from FEMA telling you what the money covers. Be sure to read the "Help After a Disaster: Applicant's Guide to the Individuals and Households Program" included with your letter, for additional information.
Are insurance deductibles covered under FEMA's programs?
FEMA does not cover insurance deductibles. If your insurance settlement does not meet you disaster related need you may be eligible for assistance from FEMA.
What documents does FEMA want from my insurance company?
If you apply for help from FEMA because your insurance does not cover all of your disaster related needs, you need to write a letter to FEMA explaining your situation and include a copy of a settlement or denial letter from your insurance company. FEMA cannot duplicate any insurance coverage.
My insurance company told me it would be weeks before they come to see my damages. Can FEMA help?
If a decision on your insurance settlement has been delayed longer than 30 days from the time you filed the claim you may be eligible for an insurance advancement from FEMA. These funds are considered a loan and must be repaid to FEMA once you receive your settlement from your insurance company. Contact FEMA if your insurance settlement is delayed. FEMA will send you a Request for Advancement and Signature letter. You must complete and return this letter before FEMA can evaluate your request for assistance.
I had damages to my farm or ranch. Can FEMA help me?
If you sustained damages to your home or personal property, you should apply with FEMA for assistance. If you had damages to your crops, livestock, farm equipment, barns, dairy, etc., you should contact your local Farm Services Agency office to inquire about the USDA's disaster assistance program.
Will FEMA help me pay my utility bills?
No, FEMA cannot pay utility bills. However, local charitable organizations may be able to help for a short period. We suggest you contact the Red Cross or your local United Way office for a referral to a local agency that may be able to help.
I lost my food because of the power outage; will I be reimbursed for it?
FEMA's disaster assistance program does not cover food losses. Voluntary organizations in the disaster area may be able to help you with a hot meal or other immediate needs for food.
I purchased a generator. Will I be reimbursed?
FEMA reviews requests for reimbursement of the cost of a generator on a case-by-case basis and determines if a generator was purchased to overcome a disaster-related hardship, injury, or adverse condition. You should register and submit your receipts to see if the cost is covered.
Do I have a right to appeal?
Yes, any person who has had their application for assistance denied by FEMA has a right to appeal. However, you should only appeal after you have completed all of the FEMA application processes, such as filing for an SBA Loan and seeking reimbursement from your insurance company. If all of the FEMA application requirements have been satisfied and FEMA denies your application, you may then appeal the denial.
How do I appeal?
Send a letter to FEMA explaining why you believe the decision about the amount or type of assistance you received is incorrect. You, or someone who represents you or your household, should sign the letter. Include the FEMA registration number and disaster number (shown at the top of your decision letter) in your letter of appeal.
You may send your letter in one of two ways:
Mail your appeal letter and/or appeal form to:
FEMA – Individuals & Households Program
National Processing Service Center
P.O. Box 10055
Hyattsville, MD 20782-7055
Fax your appeal letter and/or appeal form to:
Attention: FEMA – Individuals & Households Program
Can someone else fill out my appeal form for me?
If the person writing the letter and/or submitting the appeal form is not a member of your household, then the request must also contain a statement signed by you giving that person authorization to act for you. For example, you might sign a statement that says, “I represent the household referenced by FEMA registration number _____, and _____ [name of person completing form or letter] is authorized to act for me.”
What is the deadline for filing an appeal?
All appeals must be postmarked within sixty (60) days of the date of the decision letter denying your FEMA application.
How long will it take to hear back from FEMA after I submit my appeal form?
You should be notified by mail of the response to your appeal within approximately thirty (30) days from the date FEMA receives your appeal letter. However, this estimate may be inaccurate if the magnitude of the event results in abnormally high volumes of appeals.
How can I check on the status of my appeal?
FEMA has implemented an “Automated Status Update” function for those who have registered for assistance. Dial 1-800-621-3362, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and follow a series of voice-activated prompts to access information about your personal registration, eligibility status, financial compensation, the appeal process and other information.
U.S. SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION (SBA) ASSISTANCE
Why am I being referred to the SBA?
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is the primary source of federal funds for long-term recovery assistance for disaster victims. The SBA has low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters and non-farm businesses to cover disaster damage to real and personal property.
Does the SBA make loans to individual or just businesses?
The SBA can loan money to homeowners, renters, and business owners. Homeowners may borrow up to $200,000 for disaster related home repairs. Homeowners and renters may borrow up to $40,000 to replace disaster-damaged personal property including vehicles. The SBA may not duplicate benefits from your insurance or FEMA. You may receive an SBA referral when you apply with FEMA.
How do I reach the SBA Hotline?
The SBA has loan officers in the Disaster Recovery Centers to provide face-to-face service to disaster victims. You may visit the SBA at any of these locations without an appointment. A SBA representative will be glad to answer questions and help complete your application. To find out where the SBA disaster offices are located an applicant can call the SBA toll-free at 1-800-659-2955.
I applied for FEMA assistance, why did I receive an SBA loan application?
If you get a SBA Disaster Loan application in the mail, you must complete and return the application to be considered for a loan as well as certain types of grant assistance through FEMA. SBA representatives are available at Disaster Recovery Centers to help you with the application. If the SBA finds that you cannot afford a loan they will automatically refer you to FEMA's Individual and Household grant program for help.
I have not been able to work since the hurricane hit. My employer says that I still have a job, but I am not drawing a paycheck. Does FEMA pay for lost wages?
If you lost work because of the disaster you may qualify for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA). Contact the local office of your State's Employment Commission for information about DUA.
What do I do if FEMA and SBA cannot cover some of my immediate needs?
Contact your local emergency management office or your local Long Term Recovery Organization. They should be able to offer guidance or refer you to the appropriate assistance agency.
December 8, 2009 10:33