Advice from a member with disaster recovery experience

Some advice from a member with disaster recovery experience:
First and foremost – DO NOT GIVE UP! A denial is the first step in appealing the decision, in some cases it requires multiple appeals to be successful.

  • Call and get your claim Number, no matter how “small” you think the damages may be, get your name on the list.
  • FEMA will assign you a number and someone will come out to inspect – timing is not certain simply because in a disaster, patience is the foremost requirement.
  • FEMA will ask you to apply to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for a loan. The SBA is like our housing income verification process, they’re just confirming your ability to borrow. In some cases it may be a great option, you can get repairs and possibly refinance you current mortgage, depending on the amount, for a very low interest rate.
  • In many cases the SBA will deny you. DO NOT GIVE UP!
  • Call FEMA back with the denial information. You are still eligible for assistance, that can cover some of the cost to repair, temporary rental funds and other storm related expenses, such as buying a generator. Even if you spent those funds before the storm, preparing for it, they might be eligible. The FEMA award is a fixed amount, about $30,000- anything you are reimbursed for comes from the total amount- rent and repairs from the same amount.
  • FEMA also knows if you had insurance, homeowners or flood. They will make an initial award to get you started, such as for temporary rental funds or reimburse what you have already spent, then they want to confirm what any other insurance program is awarding you, before they continue to award you additional funds, based on their inspection/assessment of the damages.
  • Remember inspectors, whether FEMA or insurance, are human and can make mistakes or underestimate the damages to your home. It’s much easier to argue if you can get a licensed contractor to provide an estimate that mirrors their scope of work. Add any other repairs that the inspector may have missed, separately, to indicate additional concerns.
  • Disputing an award amount takes time. Whether it’s FEMA or the insurance companies, you have to be insistent (as opposed to obnoxiously argumentative).
  • It can be incredibly annoying that the FEMA claims are treated with similar privacy respect as the HIPA laws, you can’t call on someone’s behalf, unless they are with you or have signed a release.
  • Getting an increase in the award amounts, from either FEMA or insurance is possible, but it takes a lot of time, and really needs to be backed up by another clear and concise estimate. It’s hard to make the case for some of the damages on mobile homes, especially older ones, that may not have had any insurance. In many cases, with the ductwork submerged and old particle board floors getting wet, it will be cheaper to replace, but FEMA doesn’t seem willing to consider total replacement, unless you can prove the frame is bent.