All You Need To Know About Applying For FEMA

Q: I live in a coastal area that can see massive amounts of damage from storms and man viewing damage to his houseflooding each summer and early fall. I’d love to get government assistance to help cover some of the repair costs, but I don’t know if I qualify for funding. How do I apply for FEMA?

A: With the summer storm season at its peak, homes across the country are standing up to hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and more. Repairing the damages caused by these natural disasters can be expensive, but you don’t necessarily have to go it alone. The FEMA application, approval and fund-granting process may not be timely, but it’s not as complicated as you might think. Plus, the funds you may qualify for will be well worth the wait.

To help you out, we’ve broken down the process and answered some frequently asked questions about FEMA. Read on for all you need to know about federal disaster aid.

How can FEMA help me through a disaster?

FEMA assistance is intended to help make your damaged home safe, sanitary and secure for the residents who live there. Consequently, FEMA will not provide funding for any cosmetic repairs or for any non-essential living spaces, such as a family room, guest bedroom or rec room. The repair fund estimates are based on average material and labor costs.

You can apply for FEMA assistance with temporary housing costs, home repairs and other disaster-related expenses including medical bills, free meals or temporary SNAP benefits, funeral costs and assistance with reconnecting utilities and paying energy bills.

If you’re a small business owner and your business has sustained damage in the disaster, you may also want to apply for a long-term disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration. If you can’t afford to repay this loan, you may be eligible for additional FEMA assistance, but you’ll only be approved after you’ve applied for the loan.

How do I apply for FEMA?

Before you get started on your FEMA application, you’ll need to file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance provider, as well as with any other relevant insurance policies you might have, such as flood insurance. You are required by law to file a claim even if you know the damage will not be covered by your policy. It’s important to note that FEMA is never intended to take the place of insurance or to restore damaged property to its prior condition. It is simply meant to help victims of natural disasters meet some critical expenses which are not covered elsewhere.

Once you’ve filed your insurance claim, you can register for FEMA online at DisasterAssistance.gov, through the FEMA mobile app, or by calling 800-621-3362.

When you register for FEMA, you’ll need to provide the following information:

  • Social Security number
  • Address of the location where damage occurred
  • Current address and phone number
  • Insurance information
  • Annual household income
  • Destination Credit Union‘s routing number and your checking or savings account number(s)
  • A description of all damages and losses to your property caused by the disaster

After you’ve completed your application, you will receive a FEMA claim number. Be sure to store this number in a safe place, as you will need it when you check your eligibility and your claim status.

What happens next?

As soon as 24 hours have passed since you’ve applied for assistance, you can check your application status on the FEMA website, using your claim number.

Within 10 days, you’ll be contacted by a FEMA-contracted housing inspector to schedule an appointment to assess the extent of damage. You’ll need to have an adult present for the inspection.. You’ll also have to show proof of household ownership, such as a deed or a title, as well as copies of your homeowner’s insurance policy. You don’t need to hold off on cleaning up the disaster, so long as you’ve snapped some pictures of what your house looked like before you started putting it back together. Show these photos to the inspector when they show up at your door.

How do I know if I qualify for assistance?

After the inspection is complete, it can take up to 10 days for your claim to be approved or denied. You can check your eligibility through any of these media:

  • Using the address lookup feature on DisasterAssistance.gov or through the FEMA mobile app
  • Visiting FEMA’s Individual Disaster Assistance page
  • Calling FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY:1-800-462-7585)

If your claim is approved and you qualify for a FEMA grant, you will receive the funding through a check or via direct deposit to your [credit_union] account. Be sure to only use the grant funds for eligible expenses. If you misuse the money, you may have to refund FEMA in the full amount and you may not be eligible for financial aid in the future. Hold onto your FEMA receipts for three years after a grant in case of an audit.

Your FEMA funds are tax-free and do not count as income.

If your claim was denied, you can appeal FEMA’s decision in writing. Be sure to include all relevant information, documents and photographs, as well as your original FEMA claim number.

Here’s wishing you a safe storm season from all of us here at Destinations Credit Union!

Your Turn: Have you ever received FEMA funding? Tell us about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2018/05/08/4363/apply-now-federal-disaster-assistance

https://www.usa.gov/disaster-financial-help
https://cashmoneylife.com/how-to-file-a-fema-assistance-reimbursement-claim/

Beware Natural Disaster Scams

When disaster strikes, so do the scams. It’s the season of hurricanes, earthquakes, man and woman sitting on sofa in flooded hometornadoes and more. If you live in an area that’s prone to storms and flooding, or you volunteer to help the victims of natural disasters, beware of these four post-disaster scams so you’re not taken for a ride.

Bogus charities

As soon as a major natural disaster hits, fake charities spring up like dandelions after a spring rain. You might get solicitations for donations via email, social media posts, text messages or phone calls. These appeals are usually accompanied by a tear-jerking story designed to play on your emotions and get you to loosen your purse strings. Unfortunately, these scams are often successful at swindling victims out of thousands of dollars.

Never take a request for monetary aid at face value. Check out the charity’s authenticity at Charitynavigator.org and see what the Better Business Bureau has to say about them. If you find the charity does indeed exist and is a reliable organization, double-check that the website address (URL) is correct so you can be sure you’re not handing over money to a copycat site. If you want to be absolutely certain that your donation is going to the right address, you can simply contact the charity or The Red Cross on your own.

FEMA imposters

The days following a natural disaster can be chaotic, as victims try to put their lives and their homes back together.

Devious scammers capitalize on this misfortune to impersonate FEMA representatives to collect victims’ personal information and/or their money. They’re counting on victims being too preoccupied to check their legitimacy.

If you applied for FEMA, stay one step ahead of the scammers by remaining alert and cautious. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to represent the federal organization, only share your FEMA claim number over the phone, keeping all other personal details to yourself. If the caller is legitimate, they should already have any other information they need.

If a FEMA representative shows up at your home, ask to see a FEMA-issued photo ID badge. The “representative” may promise to speed up your claim if you pay a deposit, but this is completely false, as FEMA does not offer any such arrangement. Do not give the “FEMA rep” any of your money – or any of your personal information.

Shady repair contractors

Many so-called contractors will make the rounds of neighborhoods that have seen storm damage to offer their services to homeowners seeking repairs. They may ask for upfront payment for any work you need and then do a sloppy job or never complete their task. You won’t realize you’ve been conned until the worker has left your home with your money in their pocket. To avoid getting caught in this scam, carefully research any contractor you’d like to use before hiring, and never agree to pay for all or most of the repairs before the work is done.

In a different variation of this scam, someone may show up at your door claiming to represent a utility company you use. They’ll threaten to shut off your service if you don’t provide immediate payment for any repairs you might need. Ask to see proof that they indeed represent the company they claim to work for and do not make any upfront payments until you have checked out their authenticity.

Damaged cars

It’s not only homes that can be heavily damaged by storms; vehicles can get hit hard, too. Sometimes, a car that’s been in a flood or hurricane can be fixed up so it looks fine on the outside despite a heavily damaged interior. Shady car salespeople might try to sell these vehicles to unsuspecting consumers who have no idea the car has been in such a storm.

If you’re shopping for a car in an area that has recently been hit by a natural disaster, be sure to check out the car’s history on sites like Carfax.com.

Don’t let scammers make a natural disaster more difficult than it already is. If you suspect fraud, let the FTC know at FTC.gov.

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a natural disaster scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.ridester.com/doordash-vs-grubhub/amp/
https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2019/03/04/defend-against-disaster-related-scams#
https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/disaster.html