FEMA Registration

Q: Should I register for FEMA assistance if I have insurance?
A: Yes. Sometimes insurance doesn’t cover all your disaster-related expenses. You may be eligible for FEMA disaster aid for costs insurance doesn’t cover, such as rent on a temporary place to live, childcare or moving and storage expenses. Register with FEMA to be sure you can access any FEMA aid you may be eligible to receive.

Q: It is hard to register for FEMA disaster assistance?
A: The process is simple and it usually takes about 20 minutes. You will need:
    Your Social Security number
    Your current and pre-disaster address
    A telephone number where you can be contacted
    Insurance information
    Total household annual income
    A description of your losses caused by the disaster
You can complete the registration by calling FEMA at 800-621-3362; TTY 800-462-7585; going online to DisasterAssistance.gov or visiting a Disaster Recovery Center. Find a center by calling FEMA at 800-621-3362 or going online to fema.gov/drc

Q: Is registering with FEMA all I need to do to get assistance?
A: After you register, FEMA reviews your information. FEMA will send an inspector to document damage to your property. If you’re eligible for aid, you will receive a U.S. Treasury/State check or notification of a direct deposit to your bank account. The process usually takes at least a few days.

Q:  I reported my damage to my local emergency management agency and to the Red Cross. Did that also get me registered with FEMA?
A: There is only one way to register with FEMA and that is by getting in touch with FEMA. You can register by calling FEMA at 800-621-3362; TTY 800-462-7585; going online to DisasterAssistance.gov or visiting a Disaster Recovery Center. Find a center by calling FEMA at 800-621-3362 or going online to fema.gov/drc. Reporting your losses to other agencies does not register you with FEMA.

FEMA Disaster Assistance

Q: I hear so many different things about FEMA. How can I get accurate information?
A: Get straight answers and plain facts by calling the FEMA Help Line at 800-621-3362 or (TTY) 800-462-7585 or by going online to DisasterAssistance.gov or visiting a Disaster Recovery Center. Find a center by calling FEMA at 800-621-3362 or going online to fema.gov/drc

Q: If I get help from FEMA is that going to reduce my social security benefits?
A: No. FEMA disaster assistance does not count as income. It will not cause any reduction of your Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) or other federal and state benefits.

Q: Will I have to pay back the money I receive from FEMA?
A: No. You do not have to pay FEMA back for any grants you receive.

Q: If I already cleaned up and repaired the damage to my home is it too late to get help from FEMA?
A:  It’s not too late. You may be eligible for FEMA assistance even if you’ve already repaired the damage. It will help if you have “before” photos and receipts for your repair expenses. Register with FEMA to find out more. You may be eligible for a grant for repair assistance that will help cover your costs.

Q:  If I can afford it, shouldn’t I pay for repairs myself because that leaves more money for people who have a bigger need for help?
A:  FEMA has funding to help eligible West Virginia survivors. Don’t cut yourself off from aid you may be eligible to receive. Register with FEMA now. If you are eligible for assistance, FEMA will provide funds to help you start the recovery process.

Q: If I have other family members or roommates living with me, will FEMA give them any help?
A: FEMA is committed to giving each individual survivor all the help he or she is eligible for. FEMA evaluates the needs of all eligible survivors on a case-by-case basis. Be sure to tell FEMA about the needs of all members of your household whether they are related to one another or not. Call the FEMA helpline at 800-321-3362 if you need to update your registration or have questions about the needs of any members of your household.

Q: How do I find out if my income is too high to qualify for FEMA assistance?
A: Regardless of your income, if you have damage or losses from the June 22-29 severe storms, floods, landslides and mudslides, register with FEMA now. If you are eligible, FEMA may provide assistance for temporary housing, home repair and replacement or for medical, dental, funeral, and child-care expenses without regard to income. However, FEMA cannot duplicate assistance available through insurance or other sources. Register now.

Q:  Will FEMA take my property?
A: No. FEMA has no authority to take property of any kind from anyone.

Q:  FEMA doesn’t pay survivors enough.
FEMA grants help eligible survivors start to get their lives back on track. They help with some basic disaster-related costs. FEMA grants are not the same as insurance. They are usually not enough to get a household back to how it was before the disaster. FEMA looks at each case individually.

Q: Can I get any help from FEMA if I live in a rental?
A: Yes, renters may be eligible for FEMA assistance with their disaster-related losses. Register with FEMA to find out what aid may be available.

 Appealing FEMA’s Decision

Q: If I get a letter from FEMA saying I’m not eligible for help, what can I do?
A: Every homeowner or renter has the right to appeal FEMA’s determination decision. The first step in appealing the decision is reading your determination letter carefully. Sometimes FEMA just needs additional information. There may be issues with your application that can be resolved quickly and easily, enabling you to receive assistance.

Q: Can I still get help even if I get a letter from FEMA saying I’m ineligible for help because I have insurance?
A: FEMA can reconsider you for aid after you send FEMA a copy of your insurance settlement documents. If there are disaster-related costs that your insurance doesn’t cover, FEMA may be able to help with those expenses.

Q: Can I get FEMA aid if I inherited my home and have lived there for years, but do not have the deed?
A: There are other documents besides a deed you can submit to prove home ownership, including mortgage, insurance documents or tax receipts. If you do not have a deed, speak to your local officials or an attorney about obtaining a copy.

Q: How can I get answers to my questions about letters from FEMA?
A: If you have any questions about your determination letter, call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585. You can also visit a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) and speak with a disaster assistance representative. Find a center by calling FEMA at 800-621-3362 or going online to fema.gov/drc

Q: How can I appeal a FEMA decision?
A: If you decide to appeal FEMA’s decision, your appeal must be in writing and must be received within 60 days of the date on your FEMA determination letter. You may file your appeal documents by fax to 800-827-8112, or by mail to: FEMA National Processing Service Center, P.O. Box 10055, Hyattsville, MD 20782-7055.

Inspectors, Condemnations and Buyouts
Q: Does it take weeks before a FEMA housing inspector visits?
A: No. It usually takes just a few days for an inspector to call and schedule a property inspection.

Q: If I wait until the FEMA inspector comes and condemns my home, will I get the maximum amount from FEMA?
A: No. FEMA inspectors only make a record of damage. FEMA does not condemn homes. Register now if you need assistance.

Q:  Are FEMA personnel condemning homes and properties in storm-impacted neighborhoods?
A: No. FEMA does not – and has no authority to – condemn homes or properties.

Q: Is FEMA sending out letters about buyouts?
A: No. FEMA is not sending out letters about “buyouts”. FEMA does not purchase flood prone properties. FEMA gives mitigation grants to the state. It’s up to local and state officials to decide whether they will use the grant to fund a property acquisition/demolition program. If there is a program, participation is completely voluntary; no one is ever required to accept a buyout. Anyone interested in a buyout should talk with their mayor, county commissioner or floodplain manager.

Temporary Housing
Q: Can I keep my pets if I live in a FEMA temporary housing unit?
A: Yes. FEMA does not prohibit pets from temporary housing units.

Q: Will FEMA give me a temporary housing unit if I don’t have a clear title on my home?
A: You do not have to own a home to be eligible for a temporary housing unit. Even renters may be eligible.

Debris Removal
Q: Is it true FEMA is paying $10 or $15 per hour for workers to clean up debris?
A: FEMA does not hire workers to clean up debris. Government agencies may hire workers to clean up debris. Cleanup contractors may also hire workers. These are independent employers and they set their own wage rates.


Q:  Can people donate money or items to FEMA to help flood victims?
A: No. FEMA does not accept donations of any kind. However, many legitimate nonprofit organizations need donations. To find out more about donating to help flood survivors click How Can I Help.

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
Q: Aren’t loans from the Small Business Administration just for businesses?
A: After a disaster, SBA partners with FEMA to make low-interest disaster loans available to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes (including landlords) and private nonprofit organizations, for disaster damages not fully covered by insurance or other compensation.

Q: Do I have to take out a loan if the SBA offers me one?
A: You are not obligated to accept a loan if you do not want one. However, if FEMA refers you to SBA to complete a disaster loan application, you should complete and return it. If the SBA is unable to approve a loan, SBA will refer you back to FEMA to consider you for additional assistance with personal property losses, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.
West Virginians can visit fema.gov/disaster/4273 to find out about FEMA assistance and other useful recovery information. There is a “Rumor Control Page” on the website that publishes what is true direct from FEMA. You may get information about FEMA from friends, neighbors, family members, or others that is wrong. Help yourself and others by checking it out on the website. 

Understanding Assistance from FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program

•    FEMA must follow the law and regulations in decisions about disaster assistance.
At the same time, each survivor’s situation is different. FEMA evaluates each case individually.
•    A FEMA Individual Assistance grant is one of the tools you can use to help fund your personal disaster recovery plan.
•    You shouldn’t expect FEMA assistance to cover all of your disaster-related losses. FEMA assistance isn’t the same as having insurance or taking out a loan to fully fund returning your household to the way it was before the disaster.
•    FEMA can help with damage to essential living areas of your home. This includes the kitchen, living room, dining room, bathroom and bedrooms that a household member was using at the time of the disaster. Other areas of the home, such as unused bedrooms and second bathrooms, aren’t covered by the Individual Assistance program.
•    The amount you receive from FEMA is meant to help with basic repairs that will make essential living areas of your home safe, sanitary and habitable. It is not meant to cover everything you may need to bring your home back to the way it was before the disaster.
•    You may also be eligible for assistance to help with other serious disaster-related losses, such as childcare, a flooded vehicle, or moving and storage charges, but this will probably not cover all the disaster-related expenses you have.
•    Some homes have damage due to severe weather that occurred before the June 22-29 severe storms, flooding, mudslides and landslides. FEMA assistance for this disaster cannot cover the costs of repairing damage that existed before this disaster.
•    FEMA assistance covers costs that are not covered or reimbursed from another source, such as insurance proceeds. That is why if you have insurance, you must submit an insurance settlement letter to FEMA to assure that FEMA assistance doesn’t duplicate reimbursement from another source.
•    If you received FEMA assistance for home repairs following a previous federally declared flood disaster, FEMA required that you maintain flood insurance. If you failed to keep up your flood insurance, you aren’t eligible for another FEMA grant to help with repairs. But you are still eligible for assistance to cover other serious disaster-related losses.
•    Learn more about FEMA’s individual assistance program in the booklet, “Help After a Disaster”, that FEMA sends to everyone who registers for assistance. You can also find it online at https://www.fema.gov/help-after-disaster.

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© David T. Stephenson. 2016 No use without permission

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