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You can appeal if FEMA assistance denied

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By JENNIFER HORTONThe Wilson PostFEMA’s top public information officer on the ground in Tennessee in wake of the May 1-2 floods stopped by The Wilson Post Thursday to remind those affected by high waters in Wilson County to be sure and register the federal agency.Nate Custer, PIO with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the registration process is ongoing and in the past two weeks more than 43,000 people have registered statewide in the 42 counties that have been declared disaster areas. In addition, he said, more than $104 million is disaster assistance has been approved.Noting how fast the disaster declaration and response from federal, state and local agencies has occurred since the floods, Custer said, “This is a very quick response. There was an expedited declaration on May 4 by the President.”President Barack Obama declared the four hardest hit counties in Middle Tennessee – Davidson, Williamson, Hickman and Cheatham – as major disaster areas on May 4. Wilson County was declared a disaster area on May 14.He strongly urged all flood victims to register either by phone at 800-621-FEMA (800-621-3362) or (TTY) 800-462-7585 from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. for those with hearing and speech disabilities. You can also register online anytime at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. Help in all languages is available.When you register, you will get a call from an inspector who will make an appointment with you to come and look at your damage and will then determine the amount you might be eligible to receive to help you get back on your feet.Custer said flood victims who have bank accounts can receive the funds by direct deposit.If you have registered either by phone or online and still want to talk to someone with FEMA face-to-face, Custer said that is what the Disaster Recovery Center, or DRC, is for. The DRC in Wilson County is in Suite 35, Prime Outlets-Lebanon, One Outlet Village Blvd., Lebanon. It is open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., seven days a week until further notice.In addition to FEMA workers, the U.S. Small Business Administration also has representatives on hand at the DRC to help as well.The SBA can make low interest loans to individuals in addition to assisting local businesses. In some cases, individuals could receive a grant from FEMA which does not have to be paid back and a low interest loan from the SBA with the payments stretched out up to 30 years if necessary.Those who register will receive a packet in the mail, if possible, and most will get a loan application which you should fill out for the SBA. Custer said filling out the form does not obligate you for the loan but it does keep your options open.If SBA cannot provide you with a loan, the matter goes back to FEMA for what is known as Other Needs Assistance, or ONA.He noted there is a wealth of information about FEMA and its programs online at www.fema.gov.If you receive a denial letter from FEMA, he said, “everyone has the right of appeal.” A denial could be issued because, for instance, the request for assistance may have been incomplete at the time it was submitted or perhaps there is a question about insurance coverage.FEMA cannot duplicate a settlement that you might receive from your insurance carrier, but even so, Custer said you do not have to wait for an insurance claim to be made. He said go ahead and file for assistance with FEMA but be sure to bring it to your representative’s attention that you have an insurance claim pending.Custer noted that if you are denied assistance, you should visit the DRC where workers there can advise you on how to appeal. You will have to write a letter, but they can fax it for you and help you pursue an appeal.Also, if you have already applied for assistance and have discovered additional damage to your home or business, Custer said your application can be amended. Damage from additional rainfall can also be considered.You will be given a nine-digit number when you register for assistance. Custer said it is important to bring that number with you if you visit the DRC because that is how workers will look up your information.Editor Jennifer Horton may be contacted at news@wilsonpost.com.
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