First Letter May Not Be the Last Word from FEMA

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Applicants who receive a letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) saying they are ineligible for disaster assistance after the severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding on April 27 may discover that a “no” can be turned into a “yes.”

“Please don’t be discouraged if you get a letter from FEMA saying you are ineligible for aid,” said State Coordinating Officer David Maxwell of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM). “That letter may be just one step in the process. You can ask FEMA for a fresh review of your situation.

“A denial may simply mean that we need more information to make a decision regarding your application,” said FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) Timothy J. Scranton. “Please work with us. Help us help you.”

The most common reasons for a denial of housing assistance include:

  • The applicant needs to provide FEMA with a copy of an insurance settlement.
  • The applicant did not sign the required documents.
  • The applicant did not prove occupancy or ownership.
  • The damage is to a secondary home or a rental property, not a primary residence.
  • Someone else in the household has already applied and received help.
  • A FEMA housing inspector cannot reach the applicant by phone.
  • The applicant did not maintain the required flood insurance coverage for the damaged property.

An applicant has the right to appeal a denial in writing within 60 days from the date of the decision letter from FEMA. Instructions for appeals can be found in the "Help After a Disaster" handbook that each applicant receives.

Applicants can call the FEMA helpline at 1-800-621-3362, or TTY 1-800-462-7585, to ask for an explanation of why they were denied and instructions for submitting information that was missing or has changed from their initial registration. For those who use 711 Relay or Video Relay Services, call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

Applicants may also get assistance at a Disaster Recovery Center, where specialists from the state of Arkansas, FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration are on hand to answer questions, accept required documents and review applications, including disaster loan applications. DRCs are currently operating in Mayflower, Pocahontas and Vilonia, with Mobile DRCs open in Searcy and Little Rock.

If FEMA determines that an applicant is not eligible for a federal grant, the applicant may still be eligible for other assistance, such as disaster unemployment assistance, low-interest federal disaster loans or free legal assistance.


Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status.  If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) is the state's homeland security and preparedness agency. The agency works to identify and lessen the effects of emergencies, disasters and threats to Arkansas by developing effective prevention, preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery actions for all disasters and emergencies.  For additional information, contact ADEM at (501) 683-6700 or visit the website at

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.  Follow us on Twitter at , Hurricane Preparedness website at and the FEMA Blog at

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and private non-profit organizations fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. These disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations. For information about SBA programs, applicants can go to or call (800) 659-2955 (TTY 1-800-977-8339).

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