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Questions and Answers About FEMA Disaster Assistance

Published Oct 27, 2020

If you applied for assistance from FEMA because you sustained damage from Hurricane Sally in Florida, you received a letter or an email from FEMA. The letter explained the status of your application and how to respond. If you have not done so, it is important to read the letter carefully. Your letter includes the amount of any assistance FEMA may provide to you and information on the appropriate use of disaster assistance funds.

Why did FEMA say I wasn’t eligible?

You may need to submit additional information for FEMA to continue to process your application. Examples of missing documentation may include:

  • Proof of insurance coverage
  • Settlement of insurance claims
  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of occupancy
  • Proof of ownership
  • Proof that the damaged property was your primary residence at the time of the disaster

If you have questions about the letter, you may go online to or call the disaster assistance helpline at 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585).

What does the letter mean when it says: “Home is safe to occupy?”

A FEMA inspection may be required to determine whether a home is safe, sanitary and functional. Currently, such inspections are being conducted remotely, by telephone, following health and safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and local authorities. FEMA considers the following factors when determining whether an applicant may be eligible for assistance:

  • The exterior of the home is structurally sound, including the doors, roof and windows.
  • The electricity, gas, heat, plumbing and sewer and septic systems function properly.
  • The interior’s habitable areas are structurally sound, including the ceiling and floors.
  • The home is capable of being used for its intended purpose.
  • There is safe access to and from the home.

Disaster-caused damage may exist while the habitability of the home may not be affected.

Why did my neighbor get more grant money for repairs than I did?

Each case is unique. There are several factors involved, including insurance status and the extent and type of damage reported during the home inspection.

I can’t rebuild my house with the money FEMA is offering me.

FEMA assistance is not the same as insurance. FEMA assistance only provides funds for basic work to make a home habitable, including items such as toilets, roof, critical utilities, windows and doors.

Can my household apply if I am not a citizen?

To qualify for assistance from FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP), you or a member of you household must be U.S. citizen, non-U.S. citizen national or qualified alien. However, undocumented families with diverse immigration status only need one family member (including a minor child) who is a citizen and has a Social Security number to apply. A qualified alien includes the following:

  • Legal permanent resident (“green card” holder);
  • An asylee, refugee, or an alien whose deportation is being withheld;
  • Alien paroled into the U.S. for at least one year;
  • Alien granted conditional entry (per law in effect prior to April 1, 1980);
  • Cuban/Haitian entrant;
  • Aliens in the U.S. who have been abused, subject to battery or extreme cruelty by a spouse or other family/ household member, or have been a victim of a severe form of human trafficking;
  • Aliens whose children have been abused and alien children whose parent has been abused who fit certain criteria.

Adults who don’t qualify under one of the categories above, including the undocumented, can apply on behalf of a minor child who does qualify and has a Social Security number. A minor child must live with the parent or guardian applying on their behalf. No questions about citizenship status will be asked.

What happens if I disagree with FEMA’s decision?

You may appeal FEMA’s decision. For example, if you feel the amount or type of assistance is incorrect, you may submit an appeal letter and any documents needed to support your claim, such as a contractor’s estimate for home repairs.

FEMA cannot duplicate assistance provided to you by another source, such as insurance settlements or another program. However, if you are underinsured you may receive further assistance for unmet needs after insurance claims have been settled by submitting insurance settlement or denial documents to FEMA.

How can I appeal?

You must file your appeal in writing to FEMA. In a signed and dated letter, you must explain the reason(s) for your appeal. Your appeal letter should also include:

  • Your full name
  • Disaster number (DR-4564-FL)
  • Address of the pre-disaster primary residence
  • Your current phone number and address
  • Your FEMA registration number on each page of your documents

By mail:

National Processing Service Center
P.O. Box 10055
Hyattsville, MD 20782-7055

By fax:

Attention: FEMA

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