FEMA assistance after a federally declared disaster
Federal disaster declarations have recently been issued in various states, bringing the total to 31 major disaster declarations so far in 2016. The federal government declared major disasters in four states in August alone: Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, and Wisconsin. Some called the flooding that occurred in Louisiana the worst disaster since Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Disaster Declarations allow people to apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for assistance from damages sustained as a result of the natural disaster.
Once a homeowner applies with FEMA, an inspector is sent to the home to assess the damages. There are a few things applicants should be aware of before, during, and after the inspection - including documentation and information needed when the inspector arrives, and how long before eligibility is determined.
Registering for FEMA disaster assistance
The only way for property and residence owners to determine eligibility is by receiving a FEMA inspection, and the only way to receive a FEMA inspection is to register with FEMA.
How to register with FEMA:
- Visit a locally established disaster recovery center.
- To locate one in an affected area, visit the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center Locator online.
- Register online at www.disasterassistance.gov.
- Call 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585. People who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS) can call 800-621-3362.
- FEMA's toll free numbers are available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, for individuals or homeowners with questions.
Before the inspection
Prior to the inspection, the FEMA housing inspector will call to schedule the visit. Before the inspector arrives, homeowners or property owners should:
- Make sure an adult, 18 or older, who lived in the residence before the disaster can be present for the inspection.
- Assemble the appropriate documents that will be required to verify ownership:
- Photo identification
- Proof of ownership and occupancy - deed, title, property tax bill, mortgage payment bill or receipt, utility bill
- Insurance documents for home and vehicles
- List of residents at time of the disaster
- List of damage to home and contents from disaster
Inspections typically last about 20 minutes.
- When the FEMA Inspector arrives, a badge will be produced by the FEMA inspector. No badge, no entry! If an imposter is suspected, call local law enforcement
- More than one inspector may visit the property, but in all cases, appropriate identification needs to be provided before access is granted by the homeowner/property owner.
- Other inspectors may include federal, state, county/parish, local government agencies, the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA), National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), or other insurance inspectors.
- Some volunteer or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) may contact homeowners to offer assistance -- for example, World Renew, Salvation Army, or Red Cross -- but all individuals must produce appropriate identification.
- When in doubt, contact someone at the organization's local headquarters, or the local emergency management agency, who should be aware of any volunteer efforts in the community, for verification.
A few things to be aware of about and during an inspection:
- The residence must be free from water in all spaces, include crawl spaces, below grade, or basements.
- Only a partial inspection will be completed ifa ny space is still flooded, such as basements, crawl spaces, or below-grade areas.
- The inspection will be labeled incomplete if any floodwaters cover the property. In this case, the inspector will classify the home as inaccessible.
- If either of the above scenarios occur, the FEMA inspector will return to finish the inspector after the water is gone.
What to expect after the inspection
FEMA inspectors will remain in affected areas as long as needed to complete inspections. FEMA assistance is designed to restore a property to a "safe, secure, and sanitary condition" based on how many occupants reside in the home; it is not meant to restore the home to its condition prior to the disaster that impacted it.
Once the inspector leaves, the case will be reviewed. Within approximately 10 days, a letter that determines the homeowner's eligibility should arrive.
- Funds will be via check or electronic transfer
- A follow-up letter explains how the money can be used
More information can be found on the FEMA website, or by contacting the local emergency management agency.