Some Indiana residents who suffered damage from the severe winter storms and flooding that began Jan. 1, who have applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for assistance, have gotten letters from FEMA saying they are currently not eligible for assistance. Those denials may simply be a matter of timing or mean that more insurance information is needed, disaster officials explained.
The letters may say the request was denied because they are “INS – Insured” or the applicant’s home is not located in one of the designated disaster counties.
If the applicant’s letter stated that they were denied assistance because they are “INS-insured” (a code designating an insurance issue), applicants should call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Helpline at 1-800-621- FEMA (3362), TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the speech and hearing impaired.
“That code means that the victim has reported they have insurance,” explained Ron Sherman, FEMA federal coordinating officer. “By law, FEMA cannot duplicate what insurance already covers or pay deductibles, but in some cases they may still be able to help for eligible under-insured losses.”
It is reportedly important to apply for assistance with FEMA now. Occasionally, the insurance settlement process may take several months before it is final, perhaps even after the application period has ended. The deadline to apply for disaster assistance is March 22.
If an insurance settlement is being delayed, applicants should ask their insurance agent for a settlement letter and submit it to FEMA, along with any new information at the address listed in the FEMA letter. This information also can be taken to one of the Disaster Recovery Centers or the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Disaster Outreach Centers for help in appealing their claim.
“FEMA places all requests for disaster assistance on hold when an applicant indicates that they have insurance coverage,” Sherman said. “No inspector is dispatched to verify damages and a letter is sent out declining housing assistance – at least until a more complete picture is available. Some of these letters have been sent out in Indiana and we want people to understand that this is not the end of the road.”
Applicants who are denied housing and other needs assistance have 60 days from the date of their determination letter to appeal the decision. Applicants must submit their appeal in writing (including the insurance documents) to: FEMA Appeals Officer, National Processing Service Center, P.O. Box 10055, Hyattsville, Md. 20782-7055 or they may fax them to 800-872-8112. FEMA will review the appeal and make a ruling as soon as possible, usually within 30 days of receiving one’s request. Applicants will be notified in writing of the appeal decision.
“In most cases we are talking about under-insured repair assistance and personal property losses,” said Phil Roberts, SEMA state coordinating officer. “We want to ensure that every eligible applicant receives disaster assistance.”
Residents who call apply for assistance in undeclared counties will receive an automatic letter telling them that they are ineligible. When counties are added the denials will be reviewed and, if facts justify, corrected automatically without the applicant’s need to call again.
The application deadline of March 22 remains the same for counties that were recently designated eligible for assistance. The deadline is 60 days from the date of the original declaration.
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