People who lost homes in violent tornadoes say FEMA has denied their applications

LAGRANGE, Ga. — Some LaGrange homeowners say they’re still trying to figure out repair costs after their homes were destroyed by a January tornado.

“Very stressful, very stressful,” said Alisa Winston.

Winston and her Husband Derrick told Channel 2 investigative reporter Ashli Lincoln that while packing their home’s belongings into a Pod, they learned they were denied disaster relief assistance from FEMA.

“We went through the application process online and the very next day I received an email stating that we weren’t approved,” Alisa Winston said.

And they weren’t alone, Channel 2 Action News found other homeowners posting to social media about their denial letters.

The Winstons said they received extensive damage to their home with an estimated cost of around $100,000.

“They can explain to us why they think we should help them,” said Maria Padron with FEMA

Padron said the denials aren’t uncommon. She said the government has to assess how much money a homeowner’s insurance company is willing to pay before the government can cut a check.


She said denied homeowners need to send in receipts and a note from their insurance company saying how much money their insurance is paying.

“Once we have that insurance letter, we might be able to pay for the under-insured items they have,” Padron said.

The Small Business Administration said they’re providing disaster loans for homeowner owners who need more financial help.

A homeowner may be able to get a disaster loan for up to $200,000 to repair damaged property and applicants can receive up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property.

Metro homeowners with questions should visit FEMA’s disaster recovery center that has opened at the William J. Griggs Community Center at 716 Glenn Roberson Drive in LaGrange.

The center is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.

This is how you appeal a FEMA denial:

The first step is for you to read your determination letter carefully to understand why FEMA decided the application was ineligible. If you need help understanding your letter, you can visit a Disaster Recovery Center or call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362. To find the nearest Disaster Recovery Center, visit fema.gov/drc.

If you disagree with the determination, you have the right to appeal within 60 days of the date on the letter.

How do I write an appeal?

When filing an appeal be sure to include:

  • Your name
  • Your pre-disaster primary residence
  • Your current phone number and address
  • Your registration number (on every page)
  • FEMA disaster declaration number – DR-4663 (on every page)
  • Explanation of why you disagree with the decision
  • Include any requested information and supporting documentation such as estimates or receipts
  • Remember to sign and date the letter

Where do I send the appeal letter?

You can submit your appeal the following ways:

  • Online at disasterassistance.gov
  • By mailing your appeal letter and supporting documents to: Individuals & Households Program, National Processing Service Center, P.O. Box 10055, Hyattsville, MD 20782-8055
  • By faxing your appeal letter and supporting documents to 800-827-8112
  • In person, by visiting an open Disaster Recovery Center

What are the most common reasons to be determined ineligible?

  • Missed inspection or no response to FEMA attempts to make contact: If FEMA cannot make contact with you, or you do not meet with the inspector for your scheduled appointment, FEMA may find you ineligible. You must return FEMA phone calls and requests for information in a timely manner. o If a determination letter states that FEMA was unable to reach you, please get in touch with FEMA as soon as possible. Visit a Disaster Recovery Center or call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362.
  • Home safe to occupy: FEMA has determined you are not eligible for Housing Assistance because the damage caused by the disaster did not make your home unsafe to live in. o If you disagree with FEMA’s determination, please collect verifiable estimates, contracts, receipts, canceled checks, or other proof of expenses for home repair, personal property replacement, moving and storage costs, medical or dental treatment before filing an appeal.
  • Proof of occupancy: When FEMA is unable to verify occupancy of your primary residence, you may provide FEMA with documentation, such as utility bills, a bank or credit card statement, phone bill, pay stubs, a driver’s license, state-issued ID card or voter registration card showing the damaged dwelling’s address.