Recertification & Appeal
From FEMA Answers
In order to get continuing FEMA rental assistance, evacuees must make an application for rental assistance, then obtain FEMA approval. For Katrina evacuees, there must then be a recertification every three (3) months. Forms are provided below for those evacuees to provide the information FEMA requests for recertification. Hundreds of thousands of evacuees have had their applications denied (see FEMA Denials), so this page also has appeal forms to help those whose applications were denied.
The materials on this page are designed by legal aid advocates to assist FEMA applicants to recertify or appeal a FEMA decision. FEMA provides an official basic recertification form, however FEMA often requests more information than is covered there. The following forms and advice include both official FEMA forms and unofficial forms and advice developed by lawyers assisting evacuees.
Recertification - Official FEMA Guidance
- New Recertification Form - On October 11, FEMA issued a new Recertification Form meant to streamline the recertification process. For the income section, FEMA wants to know about any resources the applicant has. If family members give you a small amount of money, write the amount and who gives it. If you panhandle on the corner, FEMA wants to know. If you visit a food pantry, put that down.
- Video Guide - The City of Houston and Joint Hurricane Recovery Center have created a recertification video to explain how to recertify. This video was made available about September 22. Simplified written instructions on recertification were also produced in Houston.
- Requirements for recertification - On February 22, FEMA issued an internal memo to staff regarding what is required for recertification. Further detail is available from an earlier December 3 internal memo on initial recertification.
- Recertification information - On April 26, FEMA issued a press release "Recertification, What Does It All Mean?" which gives advice about responsibilities of recipients of FEMA assistance and the practical steps in the recertification process.
- Recertification extension FEMA issued a July 26th memo, changing its policies so that all eligible evacuees who began in the FEMA Apartments or "403" housing program and transitioned to the 408 Program will now only need to recertify one time. The deadline for that one time recertification process is October 31st. If evacuees qualify for the extension, FEMA benefits will continue until February 28, 2007.
This extension does not apply to:
- Those remaining in the 403 Program. (Recertification is not required for this group.)
- Those in the 408 Program who did not begin in the 403 Program.
- Those who have been declared ineligible for continued FEMA assistance in the 408 program for reasons other than failure to recertify.
- Fair market rents (FMR) - On February 16, FEMA issued an internal memo directing that rents paid to Lousiana evacuees should be raised by 20% above the FMR set by HUD.
- FEMA Recovery FAQ Sheets:
- FEMA Utility Relief Initiative Fact Sheet - about the provision included in the February 16, 2006 Administration's Emergency Supplemental funding request to allow FEMA to continue paying eligible evacuees' utilities.
- Disaster Unemployment Assistance Fact Sheet - issued by the Department of Homeland Security, this document outlines eligibility for DUA and conditions and limitations.
- FEMA forms:
- Declaration of Need for Rental and/or Personal Property Assistance
- Declaration and Release - submit with the FEMA assistance application.
- Authorization for Release of Information - allowing FEMA to release information, documents, applications, etc. to an authorized representative.
- Declaration of Occupancy
Recertification - Advocate Guidance
The further guidance from this section forward is based on advocates' experience with FEMA's interpretation of known regulations.
After an applicant has spent 70% of their first assistance award, he/she must request that FEMA recertify him/her for rental assistance from FEMA. Usually, this means once the applicant has spent $1600.00 of the first $2358.00, he/she must Request for Recertification with FEMA. Rental assistance is based on HUD's national Fair Market Rent (FMR) of a two-bedroom apartment, but may be increased to the FMR of the city to where the evacuee has been displaced. The form letters below related to Rent Adjustment have the FMR's of the cities most populated by evacuees. HUD's extensive Fair Market Rent table for all U.S. areas is located at HUD's web site.
FEMA uses three criteria to recertify the applicant:
- The applicant must show he/she cannot pay the current rent and needs assistance. This is income related. The applicant should explain how much he/she earns now and/or describe the efforts made to get employment to provide enough money to pay the rent without the assistance. If the applicant is disabled and receives SSI, that should be written into the form to explain the need. If the applicant has no transportation and does not live in walking distance to a bus line, that should be written into the form to explain the need.
- The applicant must show that the applicant paid the previous rental assistance on rent by sending copies of receipts. The first $2358 can be spent on essential needs if the applicant fills out the Declaration of Use of Funds.
- The applicant must show he/she is working to find permanent housing, which is housing the applicant can afford. The applicant must make sure he/she is working with FEMA to try to find affordable housing. FEMA has a service to help applicants find affordable housing. To use FEMA's service the applicant can go online to dhronline.org or call FEMA’s Housing Locator hotline at 800-762-8740.
For authority, see 44 C.F.R. 206.101(k)(3)
Further guidance on recertification criteria, information needed from applicant, etc. is provided in this advocate memo.
FEMA guidance on documentation needed to obtain continuing rental assistance appeared in an early March 2006 letter to evacuee awarding assistance. The attachment to this letter described the housing plan and documentation required by FEMA for rental assistance (beyond the initial award of $2358 for three months).
Advocate-authored checklists for documentation requirements:
The following forms can be filled in and sent to FEMA as a Request for Recertification:
If you are living outside of Louisiana right now:
- Not in Louisiana - If you have receipts to show you have paid at least $1600.00 in rent so far, use this Request for Recertification: Request for Recertification
- Not in Louisiana - If you have spent the first $2358 on essential needs, and need rental assistance, then use this Request for Recertification: Request for Recertification - Declaration of Use of Funds
- Not in Louisiana - If you have receipts to show you have paid at least $1600.00 in rent so far, and your rent is higher than $786/month, and you do not live in Louisiana right now, use this Request for Recertification: Request for Recertification - Rent Adjustment. Note the last page has a list of the cities with the most evacuees. If your city is not listed, check the hud website by clicking here: HUD FMR Tablefor the city you are in to find out what the fair market rent is for an apartment with the number of bedrooms you have.
If you are living in Louisiana right now:
In Baton Rouge:
- Baton Rouge One Bedroom Apartment - the $2358 is enough for 3 months of rent at $748.80, which is the FMR plus the 120% allowance by FEMA.
- Baton Rouge Two Bedroom Apartment - Request For Recertification - Baton Rouge 2 BR
- Baton Rouge Three Bedroom Apartment - Request For Recertification - Baton Rouge 3 BR
- Baton Rouge Four Bedroom Apartment - Request For Recertification - Baton Rouge 4 BR
In New Orleans, Metairie, or Kenner:
- New Orleans Metro One Bedroom Apartment - Request For Recertification - New Orleans Metro 1 BR
- New Orleans Metro Two Bedroom Apartment - Request For Recertification - New Orleans Metro 2 BR
- New Orleans Metro Three Bedroom Apartment - Request For Recertification - New Orleans Metro 3 BR
- New Orleans Metro Four Bedroom Apartment - Request For Recertification - New Orleans Metro 4 BR
In Louisiana in all other areas but Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Metairie, or Kenner:
- In Louisiana - If you have receipts to show you have paid at least $1600.00 in rent so far, and your rent is higher than $786/month, and you do live in Louisiana right now, use this Request for Recertification: Request for Recertification - Louisiana Rent Adjustment
The following fill-in-the-blank forms may be used to appeal FEMA decisions:
- All-Inclusive Appeal for Unknown Denial Reason (Instructions) - if FEMA has determined you are ineligible and denied you benefits but has not informed you why you have been denied, these forms will help address every denial reason.
- Expedited Assistance Appeal for those who applied for FEMA assistance before September 20, 2005, but did not receive $2000 in expedited assistance.
- Shared Household Appeal for applicants who are denied FEMA asistance to a due shared household or "duplicate" application.
- Insurance Ineligibility Appeal for applicants who were denied assistance because they were insured, but the insurance settlement does not cover their damages.
- Personal Property Assessment Appeal if your home had 2 feet or more of flooding and you did not receive at least $10,000 for your property.
- Proof of Residency Appeal if FEMA has denied you assistance on the basis that you could not prove the damaged residence was your home.
- SBA Loan Application Requirement if FEMA has denied you rental assistance unless you fill out an SBA loan application.
- Insufficient Damage Appeal if FEMA has denied you benefits because FEMA has determined you have insufficient damage to your home, but your home did flood.
- Declaration of Need for Rental and/or Personal Property Assistance. FEMA's cover letter accompanying this application.
- Insufficient Damage for Renter Appeal if FEMA has denied you benefits because FEMA has determined you have insufficient damage to your apartment, but you were evacuated from the apartment and were not able keep the apartment after Katrina.
- Non-Compliant with Flood Insurance Requirement Appeal if FEMA has denied you benefits because FEMA has determined you were supposed to have flood insurance on your rented home but you have never made a FEMA disaster claim before. Only those people who have made disaster claims before are ineligible for disaster assistance, no matter if the address was flooded before or not.