Disaster Assistance Tips Available for Texans Following Hurricane Rita

October 21, 2005

Homeowners, renters and business owners whose applications for disaster assistance may have been denied following Hurricane Rita have the option to appeal the denial they received from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“A denial letter may not be the final word; it may just mean an applicant needs to give us more information,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Sandy Coachman. “If you have questions about FEMA’s decision, you have sixty days to appeal.”

Only qualified applicants may receive disaster assistance. Disaster aid may include grants for home repairs, temporary housing, or any serious needs or necessary disaster-related expenses, as well as low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) that can cover personal, residential and business losses not covered by insurance or otherwise compensated.

Some applicants may receive denial letters declaring them ineligible for FEMA disaster assistance. 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.
* Failure to fill out and return the SBA loan application.

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 his/her 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.

To appeal a decision, the applicant should mail insurance settlement information, as well as any new or additional information they may have acquired since the initial application for disaster assistance was filed. The mailing address is provided in the FEMA letter.

If FEMA determines an applicant is not eligible for disaster assistance funds, he or she may still be eligible for other services such as a low-interest loan from SBA or Disaster Unemployment Assistance.

For additional guidance on the appeal process, or other questions applicants have about their disaster assistance application, the FEMA Helpline is available at 800-621-3362 (follow the prompts) all day, seven days a week.

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