Navigating the FEMA Disaster Assistance Process
When disaster strikes, if you have access to the internet, you can apply for assistance online by visiting www.disasterassistance.gov. By phone, call 1-800-621-3362.
There is a FEMA app for your phone; it can be downloaded from your app store or found at https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app
To begin the process of applying for assistance you will need to provide the following information, so gather each piece before you begin:
- Social Security number
- Current and pre-disaster address
- Telephone number where you can be reached
- Your insurance information
- Total household income
- Bank routing number and account number (only needed if you want to have disaster assistance funds deposited directly to your account)
- Detailed description of your disaster-related losses
Depending on how you elect to receive information, once you apply for assistance you will receive a letter, text, or email about your application status and how to respond.
Protecting Yourself Against Fraud
Once you report home damage, you may receive a call from a housing inspector to schedule a home inspection. For your protection, ask to see the inspector’s official FEMA photo identification. Fraud is commonplace place in times of disaster, so protect yourself by taking care to examine it closely.
You will be required to provide proof of ownership or occupancy to the inspector. There are several ways to do this:
- If you are a home owner, provide a tax bill or mortgage payment receipt or insurance policy with the property’s address.
- If you are a renter, proof can be provided in the form of a lease, rent receipt, utility bill or other document confirming the home or apartment was your primary residence at the time of the disaster.
Whether you are a home owner or renter you will be required to present a valid driver’s license or other photo ID. The homeowner or a designated person aged 18 or older must be present for the inspection. In compliance with the Americans Disability Act, if you need language translation support during your inspection (including sign language) you have the right to request this assistance.
Communication is Key
In order to keep your application in forward motion, take care to stay on top of your situation by reading all correspondence from FEMA carefully. Due to the nature and scope of the assistance process, it is not uncommon to be asked to provide additional documentation. Sometimes FEMA is simply asking for additional information or clarification. Do not let this discourage you, rather look at it as a sign that your application is being processed. On the other hand, it may be that you are unclear about their request.
Always keep the lines of communication open. In other words, in order to keep your claim process moving in a forward direction, ask questions when you are unclear and answer questions when FEMA asks for clarification. You can reach the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362. More information can be found at https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2018/05/03/4362/register-fema-disaster-assistance
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