FEMA Offering Determination Letters
Although the deadline to file for FEMA grants has passed, the agency is still providing applicants with determination letters. Every homeowner and renter who applied for federal disaster assistance after the December 10-11, 2021, tornadoes will receive a FEMA determination letter detailing the status of their application. There are times FEMA may also call an applicant before a determination is made. At any time, Tennessee tornado survivors can check the status of their application.
Get a Status Update
▪ You can check the status of your FEMA application online at DisasterAssistance.gov,; this is the fastest way to receive and send information to FEMA.
▪ FEMA Helpline specialists are also available to answer any questions regarding your application or provide other information. The FEMA Helpline number is 800-621-3362. Call between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time, seven days a week.
FEMA Determination Letters
▪ Every survivor who applies for federal disaster assistance will receive a letter from FEMA stating an eligibility decision and the reason for it.
▪ Each application is processed and evaluated, so be sure to read your determination letter carefully and respond if necessary.
The letter may state you’re ineligible for assistance or “no decision” can be made at this time.
Remember, an “ineligible” determination or “no decision” notification isn’t necessarily the final word. Read your letter or update carefully. You could be missing documents or FEMA may need more information.
Provide whatever is needed for your application to continue being processed. You may also appeal an
Factors That May Affect Eligibility
▪ Insufficient damage. Sometimes survivors have insufficient damage to their home and/or personal property and do not qualify for assistance. FEMA reviews each survivor’s situation on a case-by-case basis to cover basic recovery needs.
▪ Multiple applications from the same address. Only one application is usually accepted per address. In some cases, due to household composition, multiple applicants such as roommates may apply. If you live in an apartment or condo, include the unit information in your application.
▪ Tornado damage to a non-primary residence. If the damage occurred to a residence where you live less than six months out of the year, that could affect your eligibility for FEMA assistance.
The FEMA Helpline offers one-on-one, personal guidance for homeowners and renters regarding their application for federal disaster assistance following the December 10-11, 2021, tornadoes. Call the FEMA Helpline at (800) 621-3362. Press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish, and 3 for other languages. Specialists are available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time, seven days a week.
Talk to FEMA
▪ If you think you should have heard from FEMA, have additional information to add to your file, or just want to see how your application is progressing, contact FEMA.
▪ A “no contact for inspection” is the most common reason renters and homeowners are found ineligible for FEMA Housing Assistance. Let FEMA know before your home inspection appointment if you cannot be there. If you or your designated representative are not at your home when the inspector arrives for the appointment, your assistance will stop. So, please call FEMA first.
▪ It’s important to update FEMA about changes to your status, particularly your housing situation. All applicants should update FEMA about changes in insurance and contact information as soon as possible and as often as necessary. FEMA may need to contact you, and missing or wrong information could delay the delivery of assistance. When contacting FEMA, keep handy the nine-digit number assigned to you when you applied.
▪ FEMA encourages you to stay in touch to get answers to your questions in English, Spanish or other languages. You can ask about the status of your application or other topics ranging from home inspections to information on appealing FEMA’s eligibility determination or adding the name of someone to speak for the applicant.
▪ Call FEMA to let us know when you receive your insurance settlement. FEMA will then review your situation to see if there are disaster caused needs insurance didn’t cover that might be eligible.
▪ Don’t miss out on important information. Incoming calls from FEMA may show up as unlisted, private, out-of-state, or simply from an unfamiliar number. Maybe you didn’t answer the phone because you didn’t recognize the number. It could have been FEMA. So, call us back and find out.
Resources to stay in touch with FEMA:
▪ Call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362. Press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish, Press 3 for other languages. If you use a relay service, such as video relay (VRS), captioned telephone or other service, give FEMA the number for that service. Helpline operators are available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. local time, daily.
▪ Log into your account at DisasterAssistance.gov.
▪ Use the FEMA mobile app, which can be easily downloaded to a smartphone and is also available in Spanish.
Every Survivor has the Right to Appeal
Once you apply for FEMA assistance, you will receive a letter explaining the status of your application. The letter may state you’re ineligible for assistance or “no decision” can be made at this time. Don’t be discouraged or frustrated. Instead, just read the entire letter to find out what’s needed for FEMA to continue processing your application. Many times, it’s a simple fix that can be addressed in an appeal. Some of the most common reasons for an “ineligible” determination are missing documents, possibly missing an appointment with a housing inspector or your contact information has changed but was never updated; it’s very important you stay in touch with FEMA. Here’s some additional advice to file a successful appeal.
▪ You have 60 days from the date of your FEMA determination letter to appeal.
▪ Appeals must be in writing, signed and dated.
▪ If someone other than an applicant or co-applicant writes the appeal letter, that person must sign it and provide FEMA with a signed statement authorizing the individual to act on behalf of the applicant.
▪ Include documents that support the reason for your appeal letter.
▪ Include your name, current address and phone number, pre-disaster primary residence, registration number (on every page) and FEMA disaster declaration number – DR-4637 (on every page). How to file your appeal
▪ Mail documents: FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program National Processing Service Center P.O. Box 10055 Hyattsville MD 20782-7055
▪ Fax documents: 1-800-827-8112
▪ Upload documents: Log onto to your FEMA account or create an account at DisasterAssistance.gov, click on “Check Status” and follow the directions
Other assistance available:
Tennessee USDA Rural Development
USDA Rural Development in the State of Tennessee provides low interest loans for repairs and mortgage payment assistance for families living in rural areas. The agency also provides repair grants to rural residents ages 62 and older.
In Gibson, Henry, Lake, Obion and Weakley counties: Call the Union City area office at (731) 885-6480 x 4 or 1 (800) 342-3149.
Disaster Legal Services
Residents with legal issues due to the tornadoes may call 844-HELP4TN (844-435-7486) or reach out to attorneys online at https://tn.freelegalanswers.org. Additionally, survivors can access information about their rights and resources, including links to upcoming legal clinics, and local resources at https://www.help4tn.org/. Disaster legal services are authorized by FEMA in cooperation with the Tennessee Bar Association and the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services.
Two months after a FEMA Major Disaster Declaration was signed for middle and west Tennessee, nearly $5.7 million in federal grants and SBA loans have been approved for homeowners, renters and businesses in Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Gibson, Henderson, Henry, Lake, Obion, Stewart, Sumner, Weakley and Wilson counties. As of Tuesday, March 15, 2022, this includes:
▪ Approximately $899,697 in FEMA grants for Housing Assistance (HA)
▪ Approximately $193,881 in FEMA Other Needs Assistance (ONA) grants
▪ Nearly $4.7 million in disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for businesses, homeowners and renters.
FEMA Housing Assistance (HA) includes grants to repair or replace a damaged primary residence and/or provide temporary housing assistance (including rental assistance) for those whose primary residence became unsafe or uninhabitable due to tornado damage.
FEMA Other Needs Assistance, or ONA, pays for serious necessities directly related to the storms and tornadoes, like transportation, storage and moving fees, childcare, miscellaneous expenses and funeral costs. The grants for HA and ONA are provided through FEMA’s Individual Households Program (IHP); these grants are intended to meet basic needs and supplement disaster recovery efforts. IHP grants are not intended to return disaster-damaged property to its pre-disaster condition and only a survivor’s primary residence is eligible for assistance.
FEMA grants do not have to be repaid and FEMA assistance is nontaxable. If you receive Social Security payments, Medicaid or other federal benefits, FEMA disaster assistance will not affect those benefits.
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