What you need to know about the FEMA help available from June's floods
DETROIT (FOX 2) - If your home was damaged in the storms on June 25th and 26th in Detroit, you're running out of time to apply for help from the federal government.
When the storms pushed through Detroit on Friday, June 25th, and Saturday, June 26th, they dumped 6 inches of rain on Detroit and surrounding areas. Just a few weeks later, FEMA arrived to evaluate the problems and decide if the federal government could help. On July 15, President Joe Biden signed the disaster declaration, unlocking millions of dollars for residents.
If you haven't applied yet, you're running out of time. If you've applied and were denied, don't fret. You may still have a chance to get help.
FEMA spokesperson Latanga Hopes answered several important questions everyone needs to know before they try to take on the cost of making the fixes themselves.
What is the deadline for applying for assistance?
The deadline to apply for help is on Monday, Sept. 13.
"We're less than two weeks out from that date. I would encourage everyone who has not registered with FEMA. If you're sitting at home saying FEMA's not going to help, if you're sitting at home thinking that if you've registered with the city and you're waiting for the city to direct you to FEMA, that's not going to happen," Hopes said.
You can either call 1-800-621-3362, visit disasterassistance.gov or go to any of the four disaster recovery centers in the area.
How do you get help from FEMA?
"In order to get help, you have to, first of all, come in. You have to apply for assistance. Should you find yourself in a situation where FEMA has denied you assistance, you should always go through the process and filing an appeal," Hopes said.
Even if you've received a denial letter, that doesn't mean you're on your own.
"I would encourage most of you that have come in and have received a denial letter to consider that if we've asked you to go to the Small Business Administration (SBA), make sure that you take the step to follow that process. If we send you to SBA and you miss that step, you may be leaving money on the table. It's a very important part," Hopes said.
By sending you to the SBA, it may mean you can get a loan to help you get back on your feet.
Which events does FEMA cover?
This summer has been extremely wet with flooding reported throughout the metro area nearly every week. FEMA understands that but wants people to know that the aid only applies to damage from the June 25th and 26th storms.
"We can only come at the behest of a request (from the city, state, or county). Someone has to come and ask us to help. We can't just come in and initiate help without that step," Hopes said. "We are here to help with the June 25th and 26th flooding and rains. Since we've been here, there have been other incidents where there has been flooding and heavy rains. That information needs to be discussed with the city, which is local, and also with the state and once they come to decisions about how they would like to proceed, if there is a disaster activated, we would then step in. By no means would we ever come in and then intercede without having had that initiated process."
Does FEMA turn people away?
Hopes said there is a chance people are turned away but that doesn't mean the door is completely closed. She said if there were steps given to follow, you should follow that advice.
"Should you find yourself in a situation where you've been denied, after submitting an application with FEMA, make sure that you go through the appeal process. The appeal process gives you the ability to go back and to make it very plain what your losses are. Remember your emotions are very important but you must set them aside. we are here to hear about the loss. There's 2 ways to look at this: Your home is the first concept for loss. That's structural damage. Other needs would fall into the category of everything in your home. So one of the individual assistance managers put this way: if you were to take your home and shake it upside down, everything that would fall out would fall into the other needs category," Hopes said.
FEMA's priority is to take care of your home, to ensure it is safe, sanitary, and functional.
She said a no doesn't always mean no.
"If you're on the line and pondering whether to come in, you should do it. Getting a no from us does not necessarily mean no. Another colleague puts it this way: that's just the beginning of the conversation," she said. "Sometimes people get denial letters and this is very important, they may have mistakenly checked a box that they did not intend to check. We may even know that they did not intend to check that box but because this is a federal document, we can't go 'oh, I'm sure that's not what they meant' and erase it and fix it for them. Instead, you'll get the denial letter. That's when the frustration can come in. When you get the denial letter, Please read it, make the changes, call and ask for assistance. We can even help you with it."
How else can FEMA help?
It's not just funds that FEMA can help with. They also offer free legal advice if you're fighting with your insurance company.
"We have two things that may be useful. There are people that are fighting with their insurance companies right now and they're frustrated with FEMA and they'll come in and say listen, my insurance is not taking care of this can you please help me? We have free legal advice. We can help you combat whatever the legalese will be with your insurance company so that you can be successful in getting them to help you. Call the 1-800 number and tell them that you need help with legal advice if you're fighting with your insurance company. We may be able to help you."
FEMA also understands this has been a long process and that you may need other help.
"Because this has been a long, drawn-out event if you feel like you need crisis counseling if you feel like you need to talk to someone, we also have crisis counseling available for people that felt impacted by the June 25th and 26th floods," Hopes said.
So far, more than $107 million has been given out to residents in southeast Michigan in the two months FEMA has been in the area.