What to do when your FEMA application is denied

Dozens of families contacted ABC Action News
Posted at 5:11 PM, Oct 19, 2017

Dozens of families across the Tampa Bay area reached out to ABC Action News, saying they're waiting for help from FEMA, or their applications was denied altogether.

George Marshall, who lives in Winter Haven with his fiancee, mother-in-law and three children is waiting for help from FEMA after some back and forth.

The storm ripped off part of his roof and water poured in, leaving his mother-in-law's bedroom living next to what they believe is black mold.

"This is my house for my family," Marshall said. My kids. This is very important for the livelihood of my children."

FEMA acknowledged his application with a letter. Marshall said FEMA inspectors told him they should be approved for more money or help for the damaged roof.

But days later, Marshall says he contacted FEMA and then was told his home wasn't badly damaged enough to get additional help.

 "You put all this faith and hope into something that's supposed to help when a disaster hits," said Rebecca Boone, Marshall's fiancee. "They're supposed to be there."

Even more confusing, Marshall said he never received a formal denial letter and found other errors on the application FEMA sent back to him. One dated the application for July 2017, before Hurricane Irma even hit Florida.

If you receive a letter saying your request for disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been denied, it may mean your application was incomplete or incorrect, one of the most common reasons for denial regards insurance, FEMA said. FEMA must deny financial aid until an insurance settlement is reached because assistance programs are not intended to duplicate insurance compensation or cover deductibles for disaster-related loss or damage.

But if the insurance settlement does not cover all of your disaster-related losses, you can ask FEMA to review your application to see if you are eligible for assistance.

For more information, call FEMA's helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or the TTY line at 800-462-7585 for the hearing or speech impaired. The helpline is open from 6 a.m. to midnight daily until further notice.

Some other reasons FEMA might send a denial letter are:
• An unreturned disaster loan application from the U.S. Small Business Administration;
• No record of the damaged property as your primary residence at the time of the disaster;
• No acceptable evidence of identity, documentation of disaster damage or proof of ownership of the damaged property; or
• A missing signature.

Regardless for the reason for denial, you can appeal the decision.

SBA disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate.  Homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property. 

The SBA also can lend additional funds that help with hazard mitigation, which is the cost of making improvements that protect, prevent or minimize the same kind of damage from occurring again.

People who have had their FEMA applications denied can also reapply again if their living conditions change or worsen. They may find they are now eligible, FEMA said.

Due to privacy rules, FEMA couldn't discuss Marshall's application with ABC Action News. However, they did say they are taking a closer look at it.