FEMA: Understanding Your FEMA Assistance Determination Letter

Survivors of Hurricanes Irma and Maria who registered with FEMA for disaster assistance receive a determination letter with their eligibility decision and the reason for it.

For those who are eligible, the letter states the dollar amount of the grant and how the funds should be used. When ineligible, the letter explains why and how the applicant can appeal that decision.

Applicants who have trouble understanding their determination letter should contact FEMA by visiting a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) or calling the FEMA helpline. The locations of nearby DRCs can be found at www.disasterassistance.gov. The helpline number is 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585 for the speech and hearing impaired. Services are available in Spanish and English (press 2 for Spanish).

It’s important to read the letter carefully to identify the reason for being declared ineligible. Some common reasons include:

  • The person is insured and needs to provide an insurance settlement or denial to be considered for assistance.
  • Additional information is needed from the survivor, i.e. proof of identity, proof of occupancy, annual income or a child care assistance letter.
  • There were multiple registrations using the same address.
  • Damages occurred to a secondary residence (where the survivor lives less than six months of the year).
  • The home is safe to occupy and/or personal property had minimum or no damages.
  • Missed inspections and no follow-up communication with FEMA.
  • FEMA is unable to contact you.

Once an applicant understands the reason for being ineligible, they can decide whether to appeal the decision. To do so, they need to submit all required information with a letter describing in detail their reason (or reasons) for appealing.

Every page of the appeal letter should include the applicant’s full name, address of the damaged property, disaster registration ID number and disaster number (DR-FEMA-4336 for Hurricane Irma and DR-FEMA-4339 for Hurricane Maria).

The applicant should also attach documentation about unmet needs they believe were not covered by the initial decision. This might include official insurance documents, receipts for out-of-pocket expenses (including home repair or hotel expenses) and official estimates including the contractor’s license and contact information.

Applicants should submit their appeal letter within 60 days of the receipt of their FEMA determination letter or within a year of the date of disaster assistance registration if you have homeowner’s insurance.

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