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Applying for Disaster Assistance

Disaster Relief

Helpful information about applying for disaster assistance

There are many disaster assistance programs. If you don’t get help from one, you could still be eligible for another. This article outlines information on applying for disaster assistance, such as when to apply, what evidence you need, and organizations and agencies that can help. The tips below are for FEMA, but other programs often require similar information. 

Apply ASAP.

The deadline to apply is 60 days from the date the disaster was declared unless extended by FEMA. Before contacting FEMA, write what you’ve lost due to the disaster—home, personal property, car, your job. Then write down what you need, such as a place to live, medical care, money for rent, or help with the repair or replacement of your home.

Keep a disaster notebook.

Write down your FEMA application number in your notebook. You will need it when you talk to FEMA.

List each call you make or receive—the date, the telephone number, the name and identification number of the person you called (or who called you), and what you were told. 

Save all receipts.

Save all papers related to your application, such as copies of letters to and from FEMA, your lease, rent receipts, leases, expenses related to your evacuation. If you can, take pictures of property damage. 

FEMA Property Inspection

Make a list of specific damage to your property. When the inspector comes, try to be home to point out all the damage to the inspector. If you believe you were denied because your inspection was inadequate, ask for a new inspection. 

Other Tips

  • Don’t apply a second time, as it will cause problems with your claim.
  • If you haven’t heard from FEMA, call them.
  • You generally have 60 days to file a written, signed appeal if denied.
  • You should include the following statement: “I declare (or certify, verify, or state) under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.” 

Occupancy Verification

FEMA assistance is available to “occupants” of a household. This means you must prove that you resided in the dwelling (house, apartment, or other living space) before the disaster. 

Six Ways to Verify Occupancy

Here are six ways to verify occupancy in order of usefulness:

  1. Utility bill: For your home with your name (or name of co-applicant). The service address on the utility bill is the home's street address. This is the preferred verification of occupancy.
  2. Landlord: The inspector can verify your occupancy in a rented house, apartment, or leased space for a mobile home through your landlord. Have your landlord’s contact information ready. 
  3. Merchant’s statement: A bill or similar document sent to your home with your name (or co-applicant's name). Merchant statements include credit card bills, delivery notices, and other first-class mail addressed to you and showing the home's street address. Use these only if you don’t have a utility bill or landlord’s statement.
  4. Employer’s statement: A statement sent to your home with your name (or your co-applicant's name). An employer’s statement refers to pay stubs and similar documents sent to you showing the home's street address.
  5. Current driver’s license, state-issued Identification card, or voter registration: It must show your name and current street address. 
  6. Declarative Statement: If you cannot establish occupancy with any of the above, you can submit a declarative statement as proof of occupancy. Do not use the statement if it conflicts with any other information in your application. This is your written, sworn statement certifying that you usually occupy the residence for more than six months of the calendar year. It must be written, signed, and have the address of the damaged dwelling. The statement should include the following declarative statement in one form or another: “I declare (or certify, verify, or state) under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.”

Useful Websites

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