FEMA relief funds letters being distributed

Published 10:30 am Friday, February 3, 2023

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Storm victims who registered for assistance from FEMA should soon be getting letters or emails informing them of their application status.

The letters will include the amount of assistance FEMA can provide, how to respond and information on appropriate uses of disaster assistance funds.

Many storm survivors will be denied disaster relief funds —at least initially— due to several reasons, so FEMA is asking everyone to read the letters carefully.

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FEMA Media Specialist Maria Padron said that two types of letters are being sent, determination letters and decision letters.

“Many applicants that registered for FEMA assistance are going to receive a FEMA Determination letter.  Some letters are going to tell the survivor that they are qualified for assistance and how much assistance was approved,” Padron said. “Others may receive a FEMA Decision Letter saying that the assistance is denied, the reasons why and what to do to appeal.”

Padron said the primary reason that storm victims will be denied FEMA funds is because they don’t pay for losses that are already covered by insurance.

“Sometimes it’s because they miss the appointment with the inspector or they haven’t provided insurance information,” Padron said. “We need to see how much the insurance company is going pay to them because we don’t duplicate benefits.”

Missing documentation that could lead to a denial includes:

4 Proof of insurance coverage

4 Settlement of insurance claims or denial letter from insurance provider

4 Proof of identity

4  Proof of occupancy

4 Proof of ownership

4 Proof that the damaged property was the applicant’s primary residence at the time of the disaster

Even if all necessary information is provided, some will still be denied disaster funds, most often because their loss is fully covered by their insurance.

Applicants who are denied funds are asked to contact the Small Business Association (SBA), which is also set up inside the Disaster Recovery Center at the William Griggs Recreation Center.

SBA Public Affairs Specialist Vivian Santos said FEMA is encouraging those who are denied funds to apply for an SBA loan to help with their storm recovery.

SBA can provide low-interest loans to help the recovery of residential and commercial storm victims.  Santos said victims are encouraged to go ahead and apply for the loan even if they have insurance because their insurance might not pay for all their losses, and it could take time to get insurance money.

Those who apply for an SBA loan do not have to accept all or even any of the loan funds they are eligible to receive, Santos said.

Insurance funds can also be used to repay the SBA loan, which is interest and payment free for the first year.

Padron said that the FEMA decision letters also aren’t final. Applicants have 60 days to appeal the decision in writing in a signed and dated letter with the reasons for the appeal.

For more information on how to appeal the decision, call the disaster assistance helpline at 800-621-3362.