- Apply for help from FEMA by Thursday, October 12, 2023.
- Appeal any FEMA decision within 60 days of the date on the decision letter. See the appeals section, below, for details and to see if you can still appeal after 60 days. These days, most people appeal decisions from FEMA to get a better award.
What to do first
- Take pictures of your emergency needs and losses before cleaning them up so that you can show FEMA what went wrong and what you need.
- Keep receipts of repairs, replacement items and lodging you paid for. FEMA may want to see them.
- If you have insurance, you must file a claim – even if your policy doesn’t cover floods. FEMA will need to see the reply or settlement from your insurance company.
- The best practice is to file an insurance claim and apply to FEMA at the same time.
Be prepared to appeal
- These days, most people appeal decisions from FEMA to get a better award. It’s almost expected.
- Read below for tips on appealing and get a sample appeal letter.
- We can help you if you have questions about the appeal process.
Read on for more details.
Applying for help from FEMA
1. When can I apply for FEMA assistance?
FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
To ask for financial help from FEMA, apply by Thursday, October 12, 2023. Don't wait to apply! Apply even if you do not know all your losses yet.
2. What does FEMA assistance look like?
FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (“IHP” and sometimes called the “Individual Assistance” program) helps people and families. It provides financial help. “Individual Assistance” only meets basic needs and does not cover all losses from a disaster. It is to cover very serious needs only. FEMA also provides “Direct Assistance,” but only in very rare cases.
“Individual Assistance” includes:
- money to pay for temporary housing
- money to pay rent at a new location
- money to pay for repairs, and
- money to replace some of your lost or damaged belongings.
“Direct Assistance” is provided in rare cases and includes:
- direct or multi-family lease and repair
- temporary homes (such as FEMA trailers).
FEMA may also pay for other major disaster-related expenses like medical, dental or funeral costs.
3. Who can apply?
You can only apply for FEMA help in counties that FEMA approves. As of September 1, that is:
- Caledonia County
- Chittenden County
- Lamoille County
- Orange County
- Orleans County
- Rutland County
- Washington County
- Windham County, and
- Windsor County.
Renters and homeowners can apply for FEMA help if the homes that they live in were damaged. You cannot get FEMA help for a second home, vacation home or camp.
You can only apply for FEMA assistance if you are a US citizen, green card holder, or a qualified alien.
- Qualified aliens include people who have been granted asylum, immigration parolees, and survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence.
- If you are the parent or guardian of a US Citizen, green card holder, or qualified alien, you can apply as a co-applicant. In this case, you must live in the same house as the primary applicant.
- If you do not fit into any of these categories, you can still apply if another adult lives in the household who qualifies.
4. Only one application per household
Your household together should decide who will apply, and what will be applied for.
5. If you have insurance, you must file for insurance coverage first
The best practice is to file an insurance claim and apply to FEMA at the same time. File a claim with your insurance. FEMA will want information that your insurance does not cover your loss. Even if your insurance policy does not cover floods, FEMA will still want to know that you filed an insurance claim, and got a denial letter.
6. If you have flood insurance, apply to FEMA for what insurance does not cover
The best practice is to file an insurance claim and apply to FEMA at the same time. If you get partial insurance coverage, FEMA may be able to help make up the rest.
7. How do I apply for FEMA assistance?
You can apply in four different ways:
- Online: Go to disasterassistance.gov
- FEMA mobile app: Download FEMA’s mobile app from your device’s app store
- Phone: Call between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern Time
- Toll-free helpline: 1-800-621-3362
- TTY: 1-800-462-7585
- In-person: Visit a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC).
- Disaster Recovery Centers open soon after a disaster occurs. They remain open for a limited time. To find the DRC closest to you, check the DRC Locator at fema.gov, call 1-800-621-3362, or call TTY: 1-800-462-7585
- Or call 211 to find a Disaster Recovery Center.
Don’t speak English?
Call and ask for someone who speaks your language.
Have a disability?
Let FEMA know if you need a disability accommodation. They can provide sign language and other interpreters. You can ask for Braille, large-print, and electronic formats, etc.
8. What does the application ask for?
The FEMA application takes at least 20 minutes to complete. It will ask for:
- your name and Social Security Number
- your address before and after the disaster
- your current contact information, including a phone number where FEMA can reach you and leave a message
- your mailing address
- the names of everyone who lived with you before the disaster (your “household”)
- any type of insurance you have and information about your insurance
- your income before taxes, and the income of anyone who lived with you
- a description of the damages and losses caused by the disaster. This includes your home, your car, any injuries, medical expenses, prescriptions, medical equipment, costs related to temporary housing.
- an account for direct deposit (usually your bank account number and routing number).
9. How much financial help can I expect?
FEMA assistance is limited. You will not get enough money to fully repair your house. You will get enough to make essential rooms safe to use. This can include costs of structural repairs, windows and doors, kitchen cabinets, septic and water systems, utilities, debris removal.
You will not get enough to replace everything that you lost. FEMA is designed to provide what you will need in an emergency.
The maximum amount of financial help is $41,000 per household. It is reported that typical grants are $8,000 or less.
- Submit your application by Thursday, October 12, 2023.
- Include copies of all important documents that they ask for.
- Tell FEMA if you move or your mailing address changes.
- Take pictures of the disaster damage before cleaning up.
- Keep receipts of repairs to show to FEMA.
- Keep a record of how and when you applied, and the dates and times of all calls and visits with FEMA.
- Get your FEMA application number and the badge number of everyone that you talk to at FEMA.
11. What happens after I apply?
Once you apply, FEMA will mail you a copy of your application.
It is likely you will hear from FEMA within 10 days from the day they get your application. A FEMA inspector may schedule a visit to your damaged home to see your ID, and to verify the extent of damage. If they come to your home, they will be carrying a FEMA badge. You can ask to see it.
12. What happens during the FEMA inspector visit?
- Ask to see documents like medical bills or repair receipts for disaster-caused losses.
- Review damage inside and outside of the home (including furniture, clothing, appliances and car).
- The inspector will take their own pictures of the damage. You should still show them the pictures that you took.
- Review any kind of insurance documents.
- Ask for documents that prove you own and/or live at the property.
- Ask you questions and ask you to sign a form saying that the information given is correct.
- It is important to note that inspectors themselves do not determine FEMA eligibility. They only report the damages to FEMA.
Getting a response from FEMA
13. What are the possible responses from FEMA?
After you apply, you may get:
- a call from an inspector (described above)
- a FEMA Grant Notice, which tells you how much money they can give you
- a notice that asks for more information
- a denial notice that says they cannot give you any money
14. FEMA decisions
If you are approved, you will get a check or direct deposit within a few days.
If you are denied or disagree with FEMA’s decision about your eligibility, you can appeal within 60 days. You can also appeal the type of aid FEMA decides to give you and/or the dollar amount. If FEMA decided you are not eligible for rental assistance, you can appeal. If FEMA did not give you enough money to start repairing your home, you can appeal.
Be sure to read your FEMA determination letter carefully. It tells you why you may be ineligible and recommends actions that may change the decision.
15. What are some common reasons that FEMA denies an application?
- Your insurance covers the losses.
- FEMA could not verify that you own the home.
- FEMA could not verify that you lived at the home before the disaster.
- The home was not damaged because of the disaster.
- The damaged property is a vacation home or secondary home.
- Your car was not registered or did not have insurance when it was destroyed.
- You are eligible for other forms of help (like a SBA disaster loan).
Appealing FEMA’s decision
16. How do I appeal a FEMA decision?
These days, most people appeal decisions from FEMA to get a better award. It’s almost expected.
Read below for tips on appealing and get a sample appeal letter. We can help you if you have questions about the appeal process.
To appeal, you should write a letter explaining why you think the FEMA decision was wrong.
- The letter should say the words, “I appeal.”
- On the top or bottom of each page you should put your full name; your FEMA application number; Vermont's disaster number for flooding in July 2023 (DR-4720-VT); and the last four digits of your social security number.
- Toward the end, you should write “I hereby declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.” Then sign the letter.
You should also send supporting documents to show why you are eligible for aid. This may include paperwork like proof of home ownership or rental agreement, repair estimates, receipts, or proof of insurance/denial/settlement.
17. What is the deadline to appeal?
You must submit your appeal within 60 days of the date of the FEMA decision letter. Keep a copy of anything that you send. You can submit your appeal:
- Online at your www.disasterassistance.gov account.
- By fax to 1-800-827-8112
- In person at a walk-in Disaster Recovery Center
- By mail to:
FEMA - Individuals & Households Program
National Processing Service Center
P.O. Box 10055
Hyattsville, MD 20782-7055
If you miss the 60-day deadline but have a good excuse, you should still file an appeal and explain your reason for filing late. Contact us for advice.
18. Can someone submit an appeal for me?
Yes, someone can submit an appeal on your behalf. You must sign a statement giving that person permission to appeal for you. That statement should include your full name, current address, date and place of birth, and your FEMA application number. If possible, include a photocopy of your ID. The person submitting the appeal must sign the appeal letter and attach the permission statement signed by you.
19. What happens after I submit my appeal?
FEMA will review your appeal letter and your file to see if there is enough documentation to change their decision. FEMA may gather more information or schedule an appeal inspection. FEMA will notify you in writing about the appeal decision within 90 days of the receipt of the appeal letter.
To check the status of your appeal, go to www.disasterassistance.gov and click on "Check Your Application Status" or call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362.
20. What if I don’t get enough money from FEMA?
If you didn’t get enough money, you can appeal FEMA’s decision (read above). You can also apply for a SBA disaster loan. These loans are available even if you are not a small business (individual people and households can get these loans).
21. Can I go back to FEMA again for help if my situation and expenses change?
FEMA officials said individuals who have already received financial help from FEMA but whose circumstances have since changed — such as having to leave their dwelling due to mold — may be eligible for more aid.
They also said Vermonters who were turned down for help, but are now experiencing more flood-related problems, should let them know. You may now be eligible for help. Contact FEMA by phone at 1-800-621-3362 or online at disasterassistance.gov, or visit one of the disaster recovery centers FEMA has established around the state.
If you live in Vermont, contact us if you have questions. Be sure to describe your problem.
Information from FEMA in multiple languages
- Info about FEMA help for individuals and households
- FEMA brochures in 25 languages
- How to appeal a FEMA decision
- FEMA in your language
American Sign Language (ASL) videos
- Renters may be eligible for federal help
- FEMA registration info for people with disabilities
- FEMA's decision and your right to appeal
- FEMA ASL playlist
Also on VTLawHelp.org
- Two tools that can help you to create a FEMA appeal letter
- Legal and benefits issues after a disaster like flooding
- Vermont renter / tenant FAQs after a disaster
- Filing an insurance claim after a disaster
- Grants for very-low-income homeowners from USDA RD
- SBA disaster loans for homeowners and renters
- Disaster Unemployment Assistance
- Tax relief after a disaster
- Mortgages and property taxes after a disaster