FAQ: How to appeal a FEMA Disaster Assistance decision

New Jersey residents and business owners affected by the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Ida who have registered for federal disaster assistance may receive a letter from FEMA notifying them that they are ineligible for aid, but officials say this determination letter isn’t necessarily the final word.

If you think FEMA’s decision was incorrect, you can file an appeal. You must appeal initial eligibility determinations within 60 days of the date listed on your eligibility notification letter. The first step is to read the determination letter carefully to understand why FEMA decided your application was “ineligible.” Many times, reversing a decision could be something as simple as providing FEMA with missing documents or information.

Officials from FEMA said that often, applicants just need to submit extra documents for FEMA to process the application. FEMA may find an applicant ineligible if the following documents are missing:

Insurance documents: Provide documents from your insurance company that show that your policy coverage or settlement is not enough to make essential home repairs, provide a place for you to stay, or replace certain contents. FEMA cannot duplicate homeowner or renter insurance benefits.

Proof of occupancy: Provide documents that prove your damaged home or rental was your primary residence by supplying FEMA with a copy of utility bills, a driver’s license, or a lease.

Proof of ownership: Provide mortgage or insurance documents, tax receipts, or a deed to FEMA. If you don’t have a deed handy, contact your county clerk about obtaining a copy of your deed.

Lost documents: Visit the federal government’s webpage on replacing vital records for information on replacing lost documents.

All appeals must be in writing. The appeal letter should explain why you think FEMA’s decision was incorrect. When filing an appeal, the submission should also include the following information: Your full name, your FEMA application number and disaster number, your primary residence address (pre-disaster), and your current phone number and address. It is important to include any documentation FEMA requests and documentation that supports your appeal claim. If the person writing the appeal letter is not the applicant or a member of the household, the applicant must submit a signed statement that the writer is authorized to act on behalf of the applicant.

When submitting an appeal, be sure to include the cover letter you received from FEMA. Mail documents and your appeal letter within 60 days of receiving your determination letter to: FEMA National Processing Service Center, P.O. Box 10055 Hyattsville, MD 20782-8055, or fax them to 800-827-8112.

To set up a FEMA online account or to upload documents online, visit disasterassistance.gov and click on “check your application and log in” and follow the directions. Applicants will receive a decision letter within 90 days of FEMA’s receipt of your appeal. If you need help understanding your letter, call FEMA at 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you use a relay service such as a video relay service or captioned telephone service, give FEMA the number for that service. Multilingual operators are available. For the latest information visit fema.gov/disaster/4614.