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Tornado Victims: Don't Be Discouraged if FEMA First Says 'No'

First letter may not be the last word from the agency.
LITTLE ROCK, AR (News release) - Applicants who receive a letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) saying they are ineligible for disaster assistance after the severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding on April 27 may discover that a “no” can be turned into a “yes.”

“Please don’t be discouraged if you get a letter from FEMA saying you are ineligible for aid,” said State Coordinating Officer David Maxwell of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM). “That letter may be just one step in the process. You can ask FEMA for a fresh review of your situation.” 

“A denial may simply mean that we need more information to make a decision regarding your application,” said FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) Timothy J. Scranton. “Please work with us. Help us help you.”

The most common reasons for a denial of housing assistance include:
  • The applicant needs to provide FEMA with a copy of an insurance settlement.
  • The applicant did not sign the required documents.
  • The applicant did not prove occupancy or ownership.
  • The damage is to a secondary home or a rental property, not a primary residence. 
  • Someone else in the household has already applied and received help.
  • A FEMA housing inspector cannot reach the applicant by phone.
  • The applicant did not maintain the required flood insurance coverage for the damaged property.
An applicant has the right to appeal a denial in writing within 60 days from the date of the decision letter from FEMA. Instructions for appeals can be found in the "Help After a Disaster" handbook that each applicant receives. 

Applicants can call the FEMA helpline at 1-800-621-3362, or TTY 1-800-462-7585, to ask for an explanation of why they were denied and instructions for submitting information that was missing or has changed from their initial registration. For those who use 711 Relay or Video Relay Services, call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

Applicants may also get assistance at a Disaster Recovery Center, where specialists from the state of Arkansas, FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration are on hand to answer questions, accept required documents and review applications, including disaster loan applications. DRCs are currently operating in Mayflower, Pocahontas and Vilonia, with Mobile DRCs open in Searcy and Little Rock. 

If FEMA determines that an applicant is not eligible for a federal grant, the applicant may still be eligible for other assistance, such as disaster unemployment assistance, low-interest federal disaster loans or free legal assistance.

Click here for more information on Arkansas disaster recovery.
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