What to know about FEMA assistance

What to Expect When Applying for FEMA Disaster Assistance

FEMA will ask for:

  • A current phone number where you can be contacted.
  • Your address at the time of the disaster and the address where you are now staying.
  • Your Social Security number.
  • A general list of damage and losses.
  • Banking information if you choose direct deposit.
  • If insured, the policy number or the agent and/or the company name.

If you have homeowners, renters, or flood insurance, you should file a claim as soon as possible. FEMA cannot duplicate benefits for losses covered by insurance. If your policy does not cover all your damage expenses, you may be eligible for federal assistance.

Home inspections

If you report that you cannot or may not be able to safely live in your home, FEMA may need to perform an inspection of the damaged dwelling. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the inspection may be conducted remotely, or it may be an exterior inspection. FEMA will contact you to let you know how the inspection will take place.

For remote inspections, FEMA inspectors will contact applicants by phone to answer questions about the type and extent of damage sustained. Survivors with minimal damage who can live in their homes will not automatically be scheduled for a home inspection. However, they may request an inspection if they later find significant disaster-caused damage.

If a physical inspection is required, the inspector will arrange to meet you outside the damaged residence.

Remote inspections have no impact on the types of Other Needs Assistance available that do not require an inspection. This includes childcare, transportation, medical and dental, funeral expenses, moving and storage, and Group Flood Insurance Policy Assistance.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has activated its Disaster Distress helpline.

This toll-free, multilingual, crisis support service is available 24/7 via telephone at 800-985-5990 for disaster survivors who are experiencing emotional distress. ASL users can contact the helpline through videophone at 800-985-5990, or by selecting the “ASL Now” option on the DDH website at disasterdistress.samhsa.gov.

Qué debe esperar luego de solicitar asistencia por desastre de FEMA

FEMA le solicitará lo siguiente: 

  • Un número de teléfono actualizado en el cual lo puedan contactar. 
  • Su dirección al momento del desastre y la dirección en la cual reside actualmente. 
  • Su número de seguro social. 
  • Una lista general de daños y pérdidas. 
  • Su información bancaria si opta por depósito directo. 
  • Si tiene cubierta de seguro, el número de póliza o de su agente o el nombre de su compañía de seguros.

Si tiene seguro de vivienda, inquilinos o por inundaciones, debe presentar una reclamación lo antes posible. FEMA no puede duplicar los beneficios por pérdidas con cobertura de seguros. Si su póliza no cubre los gastos por todos los daños, usted puede ser elegible para asistencia federal por desastre. 

Inspecciones de vivienda

Si usted informa que no puede vivir en su vivienda o no está seguro de poder hacerlo, puede que FEMA necesite inspeccionar la vivienda afectada. Debido a la pandemia del COVID-19, la inspección se podrá realizar a distancia o podrá ser una inspección exterior. FEMA lo contactará para informarle cómo se realizará la inspección.

En las inspecciones a distancia los inspectores de FEMA contactarán a los solicitantes por teléfono para que le respondan algunas preguntas sobre el tipo y el grado del daño sufrido. No se programará automáticamente una inspección de vivienda para los sobrevivientes con daños mínimos que pueden vivir en sus hogares. Sin embargo, pueden solicitar una inspección si más adelante encuentran daños significativos a su vivienda ocasionados por el desastre.

Si se requiere una inspección física, el inspector acordará encontrarlo en el exterior de la vivienda afectada.

Las inspecciones a distancia o afectan el tipo de Asistencia para Otras Necesidades disponible que no requieren inspección. Esto incluye cuido de niños, transporte, gastos médicos, dentales y de funeral, mudanza y almacenamiento y asistencia de cubierta grupal por inundaciones.

El Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos y la Administración de Abuso de Substancias y Servicios de Salud Mental activaron la Línea de Ayuda de Emergencia en Desastres. Este servicio gratuito, multilingüe de apoyo durante una crisis está disponible las 24 horas los 7 días de la semana vía telefónica en el 800-985-5990 para sobrevivientes de desastres que estén sufriendo angustia emocional. Los que utilizan el Lenguaje de Señas Americano (ASL, por sus siglas en inglés) pueden comunicarse con la línea de ayuda a través de videollamada al 800-985-5990, o seleccionando la alternativa de “ASL Now” en la página web de DDH, disasterdistress.samhsa.gov (enlace en inglés).

Para un video accesible de cómo solicitar para asistencia de FEMA, visite youtube.com/watch?v=WZGpWI2RCNw. (enlace en inglés).

Tips on Appealing a FEMA Decision

North Carolina residents who applied for assistance from FEMA after sustaining damage from Tropical Storm Fred will receive a letter from FEMA in the mail or via email.

The letter will explain your application status and how to respond. It is important to read the letter carefully because it will include the amount of any assistance FEMA may provide and information on the appropriate use of disaster assistance funds.

Applicants may need to submit additional information or supporting documentation for FEMA to continue to process an application for financial assistance. Examples of missing documentation may include:

  • Proof of insurance coverage
  • Settlement of insurance claims or denial letter from insurance provider
  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of occupancy
  • Proof of ownership
  • Proof that the damaged property was the applicant’s primary residence at the time of the disaster

If you have questions about your letter go online to DisasterAssistance.gov or call 800-621-3362. If you use a relay service, such as video relay service (VRS), captioned telephone service or others, give FEMA the number for that service. Lines are open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. local time, seven days a week.

A FEMA inspection may be required to determine whether a home is safe, accessible and functional. Currently, some inspections may be conducted remotely by telephone or by external inspection of the dwelling.

FEMA considers the following factors in the home inspection:

  • The exterior of the home is structurally sound, including the doors, roof and windows.
  • The electricity, gas, heat, plumbing and sewer or septic systems function properly.
  • The interior’s habitable areas are structurally sound, including the ceiling and floors. 
  • The home is capable of functioning for its intended purpose.
  • There is safe access to and from the home.

FEMA assistance is not the same as insurance. FEMA assistance only provides funds for basic work to make a home habitable, including items such as toilets, a roof, critical utilities, windows and doors.

Appealing FEMA’s Decision

Applicants who disagree with FEMA’s decision, or the amount of assistance, may submit an appeal letter and documents supporting their claim, such as a contractor’s estimate for home repairs.

FEMA cannot duplicate assistance provided by another source, such as insurance settlements. However, those who are underinsured may receive further assistance for unmet needs after insurance claims have been settled by submitting insurance settlement or denial documents to FEMA. FEMA does not provide assistance for insurance deductibles.

Appeals must be in writing. In a signed and dated letter, explain the reason(s) for the appeal. It should also include:

  • Applicant’s full name
  • Disaster number (DR-4617 for North Carolina)
  • Address of the pre-disaster primary residence
  • Applicant’s current phone number and address 
  • The FEMA registration number on all documents

If someone other than an applicant or co-applicant writes the appeal letter, that person must sign it and provide FEMA with a signed statement authorizing the individual to act on behalf of the applicant.

Letters must be postmarked within 60 days of the date of the determination letter. Appeal letters and supporting documents may be submitted to FEMA by fax or mail or via a FEMA online account. To set up an online account, visit DisasterAssistance.gov, click on “Apply Online” and follow the directions.

By mail:

FEMA National Processing Service Center, P.O. Box 10055, Hyattsville MD 20782-7055

By fax: 800-827-8112 Attention: FEMA

If you receive a letter stating that you are ineligible for assistance or that your application is incomplete, you can still complete the application or appeal the decision within 60 days of receiving a decision letter.

FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP) provides financial assistance to eligible individuals and households affected by a disaster who have uninsured or underinsured disaster-related expenses. FEMA cannot provide assistance for losses covered by insurance. If your insurance does not cover all your losses or is delayed, you may be eligible for FEMA assistance for your unmet needs.

FEMA assistance is not the same as insurance, nor can it make the survivor whole. Federal assistance from FEMA only provides funds for temporary housing and basic repairs for a home to be safe, sanitary and functional.

The amount and type of housing assistance you receive might be different from assistance your neighbor receives, even though the damage appears to be similar. For example, one homeowner might have more extensive insurance coverage than the homeowner next door, which could result in a different amount of FEMA assistance received.

If you are eligible for assistance, FEMA will provide:

  • A check by mail or a direct deposit into your checking or savings account
  • A determination letter describing how you are to use the money.

If you are ineligible for assistance, FEMA will provide:

  • A letter explaining why you did not qualify.
  • An opportunity to appeal the decision.

The Appeal Process
An appeal is a written request for FEMA to review your file again, and an opportunity to provide new or additional information not previously submitted that may affect the decision. You may appeal any decision by FEMA regarding your application for Individual Assistance, such as your initial eligibility decision, the amount or type of assistance provided to you, late applications, requests to return money, or a denial of Continued Temporary Housing Assistance.

An appeal should be filed in the form of a signed letter within 60 days of the date on the determination letter. In the appeal, explain why you disagree with the decision. Be sure to include the following:

  • Applicant’s full name, current address and damaged dwelling address.
  • Applicant’s 9-digit FEMA registration number, found at the top of the determination letter (on every page)
  • FEMA disaster declaration number, for example DR-4617-NC (on every page)
  • Applicant’s signature and the date 

If you choose to have a third party submit an appeal on your behalf, the appeal letter must be signed by the third party. Additionally, please include a statement signed by you authorizing the third party to appeal on your behalf.

Mail your appeal letter to:
FEMA Individuals & Households Program
National Processing Service Center
P. O. Box 10055
Hyattsville, MD 20782-8055

Appeal letters and supporting documentation also can be uploaded to your account on DisasterAssistance.gov, or
you can fax to 800-827-8112.

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