Everybody who registers for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will receive a letter from the agency. Some receive a letter saying they are "eligible." It states the amount of assistance they will receive and how the money must be spent. Others receive a letter stating that they are "ineligible."
Those people are urged by FEMA representatives to appeal as soon as possible. An appeal letter must be submitted within 60 days of the date on an ineligibility letter.
"We understand that for people coping with loss, stress and upheaval, a letter saying they are 'ineligible' for FEMA assistance can be a blow," said FEMA's coordinating officer Craig Gilbert.
"But regardless of the reason for an ineligibility letter, you can appeal our finding. When you appeal, you are asking us to review your case and we will gladly do that."
Anyone who needs further assistance with an appeal or an award amount may call FEMA's Helpline for information on how to file an appeal. Specialists are available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Those with a speech disability or hearing loss who use a TTY can call 800-462-7585 directly, or 800-621-3362 if using 711 or Video Relay Service.
Instructions for filing an appeal are also in the "Help After a Disaster" guide that FEMA sends to all who register for assistance.
Before appealing, people are advised to gather any information needed, such as insurance documents or proof of home ownership. In many cases, an ineligibility determination occurs because certain information is missing. This information may be any one of the following:
- Incomplete or missing description of damages
- If property is insured, lack of an insurance settlement letter
- No proof of residence
- No proof of ownership
- No signature on file
- No inspection report
- Lack of a working phone number to contact applicant
Other reasons for ineligibility may include:
- Damage and claims covered by insurance
- Secondary homes not being eligible for grants
- More than one application from the same address
- Damage from the disaster did not cause the home to be "unsafe to live in"
"Please follow up with FEMA if you get a letter saying you are ineligible," said Vermont Emergency Management Director Mike O'Neil. "It could be that once you send an appeal letter that supplies missing information or corrects wrong information, you'll be found eligible."
Anyone with questions about a letter may talk in person with a FEMA representative at a disaster recovery center. To locate a center, call the Helpline or go online to www.fema.gov/drclocator. However, it is NOT necessary to visit a center to get help. Applicants may always use the Helpline.