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Queens Chronicle

FEMA information for Hurricane Sandy survivors

Some have gotten thousands in aid while others still wait for attention

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Posted: Thursday, November 15, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:36 am, Wed Nov 21, 2012.

Some say FEMA hasn’t even been there, others are still waiting for the agency to process their claims, while some have already gotten money — and the amounts vary wildly.

Confusion about the complicated application policy played a big role in whether or not survivors of Hurricane Sandy in Howard Beach got money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or even got any attention at all. Most residents who applied for FEMA money had never been in the position of needing it before.

“This hurricane was nothing like I’ve ever seen,” said one Howard Beach woman who said she had trouble navigating FEMA’s application process.

While some residents have received upwards of $20,000, others say they haven’t even been helped by FEMA or their applications have gotten lost.

FEMA assistance is specifically designed to meet the needs of those without insurance or for whom insurance does not cover all their needs.

In order to qualify for FEMA assistance,

You have losses in an area that has been declared a disaster by the president. President Obama issued a major disaster declaration for Queens on Oct. 30.

You have filed for insurance benefits and the damage to your property is not covered by your insurance or your insurance settlement doesn’t meet your losses.

You or someone who lives with you is a United States citizen, a non-citizen national, or a legal immigrant.

You have a valid Social Security number.

The home in the disaster area is where you usually live and not a summer home or second home.

FEMA is assisting in finding new living arrangements for those not able to live in their home now, they cannot get to their home due to the disaster, or their home requires repairs because of damage from the disaster.

On FEMA’s website. the agency lists local apartments for rent. Information on residential help can be found at,


A number of hurricane survivors who received aid for accommodations said FEMA sent them to lodgings as far away as Suffolk County or New Jersey, and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said his office was looking into allegations that city hotels were price gouging, which may have steered FEMA away from more local options for lodging.

Besides money for housing and reconstruction help, qualified applicants can also receive money for the following; Disaster-related medical and dental expenses.

Disaster-related funeral and burial expenses.

Clothing; household items (room furnishings, appliances); tools (specialized or protective clothing and equipment) required for your job; necessary educational materials (computers, school books, supplies)

Fuels for primary heat source (heating oil, gas).

Cleanup items (wet/dry vacuum, dehumidifier).

Disaster-related damage to a vehicle.

Moving and storage expenses related to the disaster (moving and storing property to avoid additional disaster damage while disaster-related repairs are being made to the home).

Other necessary expenses or serious needs as determined by FEMA.

Other expenses that are authorized by law.

Once you apply for FEMA assistance, the agency strongly advises you to establish an account on its website, fema.gov, and use it to follow the application process.

The gap between what insurance might cover, if it does at all, versus the total cost of the damage is the reason FEMA’s reimbursements vary as much as they do.

When you receive your money, you are limited to what you can use it for. If you do not use the money as explained by FEMA, you may not be eligible for any additional help and may have to give the money back.

The money is usually limited to up to 18 months from the date the president declares the disaster, which would allow a recipient to spend it from now through April 2014.

The money does not have to be repaid and is tax-free.

Funds are not counted as income or a resource in determining eligibility for welfare, income assistance, or income-tested benefit programs funded by the Federal government.

The money is exempt from garnishment, seizure, encumbrance, levy, execution, pledge, attachment, release or waiver.

Funds cannot be reassigned or transferred to another person.

Receipts or bills for three years should be kept to demonstrate how all of the money was used in meeting your disaster-related need.

If you have been denied FEMA aid, you can appeal the decision. For information visit fema.gov/why-am-i-not-eligible-assistance.

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