You got denied by FEMA. What now?

You got denied by FEMA. What now?
FEMA workers canvas an area following Hurricane Florence. (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Your home was damaged during Hurricane Florence. Maybe you were evicted from your apartment in a matter of hours. You applied for FEMA aid and received an email saying you were denied.

Now what?

FEMA received more than $425 million in Florence recovery funds, and FEMA representatives say they want to give you money to help. But it is important to remember that FEMA is not a fix all.

“FEMA’s disaster recovery program is not set up to make you whole. It’s a hand up and enough money to get you on the road to recovery," said Rebecca Kelly, a FEMA media relations specialist stationed in North Carolina. "It can provide you all kinds of services based on the information that you put on that application. If the information is not accurate, it’s not up to date, it isn’t complete, we can’t push out services to someone who we don’t know enough information about.”

Kelly explained a FEMA determination letter is a snapshot of where you are in the process, and a denial does not mean you will not receive FEMA aid.

If you received a denial letter from FEMA:

1. Read the entire letter to see if a reason for the denial was given. Kelly said people are often denied because they did not sign the application, someone else in the household already applied, or they left out other vital information. If a reason was not given, call the number on your letter or 1-800-621-FEMA.

“The questions aren’t easy. Depending on how an individual applicant answers the questions is going to be how a determination letter is processed,” Kelly said.

2. Appeal the denial

“Always appeal your determination letter and again, you can simplify that process by just going into a disaster recovery center,” said Kelly.

3. Apply for an Small Business Administration loan

“You don’t have to take the money. Once you are approved for the loan, you don’t have to take it, but it is part of the process,” Kelly said.

What is the SBA?

The SBA Office of Disaster Assistance provides low interest disaster loans to businesses, non-profit organizations, homeowners and renters to repair or replace real estate, personal property, inventory, or business assets damaged or destroyed in a disaster.

Dorris Evans, a public affairs specialist at the SBA Office of Disaster Assistance, explained the SBA is part of long term recovery.

“The SBA is in place to assist homeowners, renters, businesses and renters who don’t have insurance, or who don’t have enough insurance. SBA is your best option for long term recovery,” Evans said.

The SBA is offering loans with interest rates starting at 2 percent for homeowners and renters with up to a 30-year payback. Borrowers who have an existing SBA loan for another disaster such as Hurricane Matthew can defer payments for up to nine months.

New applicants can defer payments for up to one year, but interest will accrue during that time.

The SBA offers loans for four different categories:

1. Homeowners: for repairs to real estate or personal property loss

2. Renters: for personal property loss

3. Business: for physical damage done to a business or to help with lost revenue

4. Non-profits: for organizations like churches and homeless shelters that suffered damage or loss due to a disaster

What are the differences between FEMA and the SBA?

FEMA is a short-term emergency solution to assist with immediate needs. The SBA is a long term recovery assistance program.

Kelly urges hurricane survivors working to get FEMA aid to keep calling, or better yet, visit a disaster recovery center. To find a center close to you, enter your zip code here.

“Stay in touch with FEMA," Kelly said. "That is the biggest takeaway out of anything I’ve said today. We want to give you the money. We want people to get back to living in a safe, sanitary, secure homestead. We want people to get back to a normal lifestyle but again, we’re talking about taxpayers' dollars.”

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