Tips Offered for Katrina Victims in Understanding Eligibility for Help

October 31, 2005

Hurricane Katrina survivors who register for disaster assistance from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) should be careful to provide adequate and accurate information to make sure their application moves smoothly through the registration process. An application may be denied or delayed if it is incomplete. An applicant may even receive a denial letter declaring them ineligible for aid. According to State and FEMA officials, the most common reasons for denial include:

* Adequate insurance coverage.
* Damage to secondary home, not primary residence.
* Damage to rental real estate, not primary residence, owned by applicant.
* Inability to prove occupancy or ownership.

Only certain types of damage qualify for disaster assistance. Disaster aid may include grants for home repairs, temporary housing, or any serious needs or necessary disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) that cover personal, residential and business losses not covered by insurance or otherwise compensated, are also available. If FEMA determines an applicant is not eligible for disaster assistance funds, he or she may be eligible for other aid programs.

Sometimes a denial simply means that more information is needed before the analysis can be completed. Some applicants, who receive denial letters from FEMA declaring them ineligible because of insurance, may be eligible later if their insurance settlement does not cover their necessary expenses and serious needs. An applicant should contact their insurance company and request a settlement letter that details exactly what is covered under the claim. Guidelines for appeals can be found in the Applicant’s Handbook sent to everyone who registers with FEMA.

Applicants with questions about a FEMA decision have 60 days to appeal. For additional guidance on the appeal process, or other questions about their application, the FEMA Helpline is available at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or log on to The TTY number is 1 800 462 7585 for people who are speech- or hearing-impaired. The Helpline operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until further notice.

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