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WORKING WITH INSURANCE AND FEMA ASSISTANCE
Filing Deadline for FEMA Individual Assistance Extended to May 1, 2013
If your property has suffered damage, call the agent who handles your insurance to file a claim. A homeowner's policy covers damage to your home and its contents while a renter's policy only covers contents. If your car was damaged, a separate claim is required to be filed with your auto insurer.
The standard homeowner's or renter's policy does not cover flood damage. If you have a policy with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), contact your agent or insurer to file a claim for that policy as well. You need to file a separate claim even if done through a Write Your Own policy from your insurer. Damage from a storm surge is considered flood damage. If you have suffered damage related to flooding conditions and do not know if you have flood insurance, you can call the National Flood Insurance Program at 1-800-638-6620 to confirm your current flood insurance and to find out where to submit your claim.
If you are unable to stay at home, make sure to say where you can be reached. To make filing your claim easier, take photos of the house and save damaged personal property. If necessary, place these items outside the home. An insurance adjuster will need to see what is damaged in order to process your claim. If FEMA assistance is available to you because you live in the area included in the declaration you are expected to contact your insurance company first. FEMA may only help with damage not covered by your insurance policy.
After reporting your claim, an adjuster will visit your home to assess the damage. The adjuster will want to see all damaged items removed from the home and any photos or video of contents removed to make the home safe. The more information provided about the loss, the faster the claim process is usually settled.
If your insurance company has not responded promptly to your claim, do not hesitate to call the company's claims department to find out if an adjuster has been assigned.
- Call the Department of Banking and Insurance Hotline at 609-292-7272 if you do not think your insurance company is responding quickly enough, or completing a reasonable investigation of your claim.
- If you have a flood insurance policy and are experiencing problems with your claim call the National Flood Insurance Program Hotline at 888-435-6637.
FEMA ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to the State of New Jersey and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by Hurricane Sandy beginning on October 26, 2012, and continuing.
The President of the United States approved a Major Disaster Declaration (FEMA-4086-DR-NJ) for the State of New Jersey for Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012. The President's action made federal funding available to affected individuals in Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset and Union counties. On November 6 this declaration was extended to include all 21 counties in the state. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
On November 4 Governor Christie announced that FEMA Public Assistance was expanded to include all 21 counties in New Jersey. Public Assistance Program funding is now available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal and emergency protective measures, and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by Hurricane Sandy. All counties in the State of New Jersey are eligible to apply for assistance under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP).
Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated county can begin applying for assistance by registering online , by web enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. EDT seven days a week until further notice. FEMA disaster assistance is not counted as income, is not taxed, and has no effect on Social Security or other government benefits.
INDIVIDUAL ASSISTANCE is disaster assistance directed to families, individuals and businesses within a declared disaster area. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. Specific information on what is covered under individual assistance is available here. Applications for assistance will be accepted through May 1, 2013.
PUBLIC ASSISTANCE provides assistance to states, local governments, and certain non-profit organizations for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities.
FILING FOR FEMA ASSISTANCE
If you have been impacted by the recent storm you must first register with FEMA to get assistance!
You may apply online and or by calling 1-800-621-3362; TTY users can call 1-800-462-7585. The call takes about 20 minutes. If call volume is high, you may have trouble getting through. In that case it is recommended that you call during off-hours (after 5:00 PM and before 8:00 AM.) The system is automated. Please have a pen and paper ready whether you file on the phone or online. You will also need the following information:
- Five Digit Zip Code
- Current Contact Telephone Number
- Social Security Number
- Current Mailing Address and Address of Damaged Property
- Date the Damage Occurred
- Directions to the Property
- Brief Description of Damaged Property
- Insurance Information and Policy Number(s)
- Family Gross Income
- A Bank Routing Number if you want funds deposited directly to your bank account. Look-up your bank routing number online here.
Note: FEMA verifies the name and social security number of those registering for disaster assistance. If the name and social security number on file with the Social Security Administration does not match the information you provide, you will be asked to submit a copy of an original document, e.g. marriage license, military ID, tax documents, etc., for proof of identity. A need to review and update identity documentation may cause delays in delivery of assistance.
Be sure to use a phone number on your application where you can be reached by FEMA. Inspectors only attempt to reach an applicant 3 times and then the case is put into "voluntary withdrawal". It is EXTREMELY important that FEMA has the correct, current phone number to contact applicants. The case will be re-opened when the client contacts FEMA. To minimize the times this happens, please ensure that you notify FEMA if your phone number or address has changed. This is done by calling the FEMA Helpline (800-621-FEMA/800-621-3362) or by establishing an account online.
Be sure to get a FEMA application number. After you've completed your application for assistance, you will receive a FEMA application number. Write down this number and keep it for future reference. If you do not have a FEMA Registration Number, you will not receive services. You can also use the number for identification at banks, airlines, etc. if your identification has been destroyed.
Ask for help in filing if you need to. If you or someone you know needs help filling out a FEMA application due to age or disability, help is available by calling ADRC - Aging and Disability Resource Connection (formerly known as NJ Ease) at 1-877-222-3737.
FEMA Assistance for Immigrant Families
FEMA helps the Household - the Family. If anyone in the family qualifies (eg. a child born in the United States, or a father with a green card), then the FAMILY qualifies for FEMA help.
Download a FEMA Flyer.
What to Expect After Applying for Assistance With FEMA
Inspectors contracted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency are contacting New Jersey residents who have applied for disaster assistance. These inspectors have approved FEMA identification badges that include the inspectors name and photo, and the name of the company under contract with FEMA. They will ask for information to verify your name and address and registration with FEMA. They will NOT ask for a Social Security number nor ask to be paid for the inspection. The FEMA inspection is FREE, so beware of fraudulent individuals attempting to charge for an inspection.
The inspection generally takes 30 - 40 minutes, during which the inspector will assess disaster-related damage for both real and personal property and may take photos of the interior and exterior of the damaged dwelling. The inspector will then enter damage-related information into a handheld computer and send that data electronically to FEMA.
The inspector does not determine whether a registrant is eligible for assistance, or the amount of a FEMA grant the individual may receive.
The inspector will ask the applicant to sign a form authorizing FEMA to verify that the information given is accurate. Within about 10 days a letter will be sent by FEMA to the applicant with notification about the decision of whether the applicant is eligible for help. If you are eligible, that letter will be followed by a check (or there will be an electronic transfer to the appropriate bank account). The letter will explain what the money can be used to pay for, and applicants should be careful to use the funds as indicated.
Recovering from Disaster with Help from FEMA and Private Insurance
Keep in mind that FEMA assistance and insurance coverage are two pieces of the same "recovery puzzle". Disaster assistance through FEMA may cover damages that insurance doesn't. That is why individuals affected by Hurricane Sandy are urged to apply for assistance even if they have insurance. Only applying directly with FEMA will establish your registration for disaster assistance. Signing up or meeting with any other agency does not mean you are registered with FEMA.
You need to file your insurance claim with your insurance company as soon as possible as well. Failure to file a claim may affect a policyholder's eligibility for disaster assistance. You have up to 12 months from the date of registration with FEMA to submit insurance information for review.
By law, FEMA cannot duplicate what insurance already covers, but FEMA may be able to help with some disaster-related expenses, that are not covered by insurance. After filing a claim, if any of the following situations occur FEMA may be able to provide some assistance:
- Your insurance settlement is delayed. "Delayed" means a decision on your insurance settlement has been delayed longer than 30-days from the time you filed the claim. If a decision on your insurance settlement has been delayed, you will need to mail a letter or send a FAX to FEMA at the address noted below explaining the circumstance. You should include documentation from the insurance company proving that you filed the claim. If you filed your claim over the telephone, you should include the claim number, date when you applied, and the estimated time of how long it will take to receive your settlement. Please Note: If you receive FEMA assistance and you later find that your insurance will cover what your FEMA assistance was for, then you must return that money to FEMA because it is considered a duplicate benefit.
- Your insurance settlement is insufficient to meet your disaster-related needs. If you have received the maximum settlement from your insurance and still have an unmet disaster-related need, you will need to mail or FAX a letter to FEMA at the address noted below indicating the unmet disaster-related need. You will also need to send in documentation from your insurance company on what they cover for review.
- You have exhausted the Additional Living Expenses (ALE) provided by your insurance company. If you have received the maximum settlement from your insurance for Additional Living Expenses and still need help with your disaster-related temporary housing need, mail or FAX a letter to FEMA at the address noted below indicating why you continue to have a temporary housing need. You will also need to provide documentation to prove use of ALE from insurance, and a permanent housing plan.
- You are unable to locate rental resources in your area. The FEMA Helpline (800-621-3362) has a list of rental resources in the disaster area.
Mail or FAX your letter to:
National Processing Service Center
PO Box 10055
Hyattsville, MD 20782-8055
Temporary Shelter Still Available
Thousands of New Jersey survivors answered "will not relocate" when FEMA housing inspectors asked what they planned to do while repairs are being made on their homes or apartments. That response made them ineligible for FEMA temporary housing assistance. Some who would like FEMA help today may find the window still open.
Here's what to do if you want temporary housing assistance now:
- If it has been less than 30 days since you received a FEMA determination letter, call 800-621-3362 and tell FEMA that your housing situation has changed and that you'd like temporary housing assistance.
- If it has been more than 30 days since you received a FEMA determination letter, you will need to reply in a letter to FEMA stating that you want to change your earlier response, explain how your circumstances have changed and that you'd like FEMA temporary housing assistance.
Survivors can follow up on previous applications online at DisasterAssistance.gov, or by web-enabled mobile device at m.FEMA.gov. By phone or 711/VRS, call 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585. Help is also available at FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers
Other Financial Assistance Through SBA
SBA provides low interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private, non-profit organizations to repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinery & equipment, inventory and business assets that have been damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster. Even if you don't get approved for this loan or don't want to accept the loan, you should apply because it will open the doorway for other potential financial assistance. The filing deadline to return applications for physical property damage has been extended to May 1, 2013. The deadline to return economic injury applications is July 31, 2013. Learn more here.
What to do if FEMA Assistance is Denied
A denial letter does not necessarily mean that an applicant is ineligible for assistance.If applicants receive a letter from FEMA that states that they are ineligible, it does not necessarily mean an applicant is not eligible for disaster assistance. If the letter states "ineligible" or "incomplete," more information may be needed, such as the applicant's insurance documents or proof of status of their claim, prior to disaster aid being granted.
FEMA requires homeowners and renters to provide insurance and other information at the time of registration. After a disaster, important documents may not be readily available or may be destroyed. Applicants for disaster aid can update their information about insurance and residency at any point during the application process. A determination letter sent by FEMA will specifically explain why an application needs to be revisited. It might ask for insurance settlement documentation for property damaged or destroyed, or for documents reflecting proof of occupancy or ownership of the damaged property.
Other reasons an applicant may receive a denial letter include:
- The damaged property is not listed as your primary residence at the time of the disaster.
- The damage was due to pre-existing conditions.
- The disaster damage was not documented.
- The FEMA housing inspector cannot reach the applicant by phone.
- Someone else in the household has already applied for assistance.
- The application is not complete.
Applicants have several options to obtain clarification on their letters, they can visit a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) or they can call the FEMA helpline at 1-800-621-3362, or TTY 1-800-462-7585. In the DRCs, applicants will find representatives from the state, FEMA, the SBA and other organizations. The FEMA representatives can provide clarity on the letter and guidance on what additional documentation is needed.
Applicants have 60 days from the date of their determination letter to formally appeal the FEMA decision. All appeals must be in writing and should include the disaster identification registration number. Appeals must be signed so you are not permitted to submit a formal appeal via email.
The appeal should include new or missing information, documents and damage repair estimates that support the appeal request.
Mail appeals to:
FEMA - Appeals Officer
National Processing Service Center
PO Box 10055
Hyattsville, MD 20782-8055
Appeals may be faxed to: 1-800-827-8112
FEMA Fact and Fiction
- MYTH: I've already cleaned up the damage to my home and had the repairs made. Isn't it too late to register once the work is done?
FACT: You may be eligible for reimbursement of your clean up and repair costs, even if repairs are complete.
- MYTH: I'm a renter. I thought FEMA assistance was only for homeowners for home repairs.
FACT: FEMA assistance is not just for homeowners. FEMA may provide assistance to help renters who lost personal property or who were displaced.
- MYTH: FEMA assistance could affect my Social Security benefits, taxes, food stamps or Medicaid.
FACT: FEMA assistance does not affect benefits from other federal programs and is not considered taxable income.
- MYTH: My insurance agent told me I could not get help from FEMA because I have flood insurance.
FACT: Even if you have flood insurance you should register. FEMA may be able to help with uninsured costs.
- MYTH: I heard registration involves a lot of red tape and paperwork.
FACT: There is no paperwork to register with FEMA. The process is very easy and normally takes between 15 and 20 minutes.
- MYTH: I believe FEMA only makes loans so I didn't apply for help because I don't want a loan.
FACT: FEMA only provides grants. The grants may cover expenses for temporary housing, home repairs, replacement of damaged personal property and other disaster-related needs such as medical, dental or transportation costs not covered by insurance or other programs. They don't have to be repaid.
Report False Damage Claims
If you suspect someone is filing false damage claims, please report it. Help FEMA make sure that disaster aid goes only to those who deserve it. It is a violation of federal law to file a false claim.
Report a false damage claim: Call (800) 323-8603 or E-mail: DHSOIGHOTLINE@dhs.gov.
The National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) was established to receive and screen reports from the public about possible fraud relating to disasters of all types, and to refer those reports to appropriate federal law enforcement agencies.
Members of the public who wish to report FEMA and disaster-related fraud may contact the NCDF:
By Phone (877) NCDF GCF (623-3423)
By Fax (225) 334-4707
By E-Mail to email@example.com
By Mail: National Center for Disaster Fraud, Baton Rouge, LA, 70821-4909
Disaster Recovery Centers
Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) had opened to assist individuals, households and businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy. Each DRC was staffed with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Small Business Administration and state agency disaster recovery specialists who were ready to help survivors through the process. All centers are now officially closed.
.Need Help? – Dial 2-1-1
You are encouraged to dial “2-1-1” 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you need help in understanding and finding available assistance services. Language translation and TTY services are offered to any caller. You can also search our database for services in your local community or Chat Live with an experienced community resource specialist. 2-1-1 will help identify with you the best local resources to fit your individual needs during times of distress or for life’s everyday situations.
If you know of additional resources that would be appropriate to include in this section, please let us know by contacting us via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sources for this page include:
Ongoing news releases from FEMA
Page last modified on 6.4.13