What does FEMA actually pay for?
In the past few days I have had two people comment to me that FEMA would be paying for house repair in places like the Outer Banks and how unfair it was. I looked and from what I can see FEMA pays for things like road repair and tree removal over downed power lines. I think if a tree falls on your house you have to pay from insurance or out of pocket regardless of the reason. From what I know about some friends in Florida, they pay very high insurance premiums to cover their property as they are in hurricane prone areas. Maybe someone has personal info of being in a disaster area that can enlighten us exactly what happens post disaster.
I also read several stories of politicians (Ron Paul comes to mind) who want to abolish FEMA. Is that a good idea? I think the people of Vermont will need help to reconnect their roads for instance, isn't that what the federal help is for?
I think there is so much misinformation spread around by rumor/e-mail/blogging these days it is very difficult to get a handle on exactly what goes on.
Re: Your question about repairs, I cut and pasted the following from FEMA's website
Originally Posted by flowerseverywhere
What happens after I apply for disaster assistance?
- If your home or its contents are damaged and you do not have insurance an inspector should contact you within 10 to 14 days after you apply to schedule a time to meet you at your damaged home. In areas where access is still severely limited, it may take longer for an inspection.
- If your home or its contents were damaged and you have insurance you need to work through your insurance claim first and provide FEMA with a decision letter (settlement or denial) from your insurance company before FEMA issues an inspection. ***There is an exception for damages caused by flooding; if you have flood insurance, FEMA will issue an inspection before receiving a copy of your flood insurance decision letter to evaluate your eligibility for temporary living expenses because temporary living expenses are not covered by flood insurance.
- About 10 days after the inspection FEMA will decide if you qualify for assistance. If you qualify for a grant FEMA will send you a check by mail or deposit it in your bank account. FEMA will also send you a letter describing how you are to use the money (for example: repairs to your home or to rent another house while you make repairs).
- If FEMA decides that you do not qualify for a grant FEMA will send you a letter explaining why you were turned down and give you a chance to appeal the decision. Appeals must be in writing and mailed within 60 days of FEMA's decision.
- If you get a SBA Disaster Loan application in the mail, you must complete and return the application to be considered for a loan as well as certain types of grant assistance. SBA representatives are available at Disaster Recovery Centers to help you with the application. If the SBA finds that you cannot afford a loan they will automatically refer you to FEMA's Individual and Household grant program for help.
- If the SBA approves you for a loan, they will contact you. If the SBA finds that you cannot afford a loan, FEMA will contact you.
Regarding whether or not FEMA should be abolished. I'm very much against it. In my opinion there are few government agencies over the past five years that have accomplished its missions as well as FEMA. However I am far from an impartial observer.
My area had a major tornado hit the city earlier this year. There was a lot of confusion, expectations, and misinformation about what FEMA pays for. I believe that FEMA paid a percentage of debris removal and other work that needed to restore the city in the immediate aftermath (80% maybe?). I am not sure how that all worked with other services like power, and restoring our water treatment plant to functioning. But, as long as we could get our debris to the road it was picked up by the government in some capacity (which was really good because by then end of it, we had about 5 large trees that had to be removed).
I applied personally for FEMA because all citizens who were affected were urged to do so over and over and over again by the state. The more citizens that apply I believe the state receives more money from FEMA. I never expected anything from them, but I had heard they will help you if your insurance is fighting your claim, so I wanted to be proactive. Well, I was "accepted"! They deemed that I had damage to my home (um, yeah an 87 yr old oak fell on it!). So, I got a check from FEMA for $135, since I had purchased a chainsaw. This was the extent of my FEMA assistance. Although I had other costs not covered by my insurance, specifically getting the downed trees to the street, since I had insurance I didn't get anything else. But, it was all a wash in the end and my insurance paid me fairly. Some people were very angry because their insurance did not pay out fairly, and then FEMA did not help them since they had insurance. I have heard the SBA loan process is a nightmare and only worth it if you are not creditworthy from a regular bank.
Now...the bone to pick with FEMA a lot of people have living through a disaster...if you don't have insurance (for whatever reason) and your car or home is destroyed, you get a big fat check from FEMA. I don't believe there are necessarily income or asset tests related to this. You also got your check quickly, like within a week. A lot of people who had insurance felt like what is the point, if FEMA is going to reward those without it. I kind of wished our old POS car was parked in its normal spot (which would have been under the tree) when I heard the amount of money FEMA was giving for cars that had liability or no insurance. But, not really we had enough headaches to deal with. We have liability only as required by the state, so it kind of ticked me that people who were already doing something illegal (no insurance on their cars) were getting benefits.
If you are a renter you also get a nice amount of money from FEMA. We had new tenants move in and FEMA paid their rent for the next 6 months I believe and gave them an emergency check for $2000 immediately. A tree had fallen through their rental home. Landlords do not qualify for any FEMA assistance, just FYI.
A FEMA letter (which I technically have) is also used as a litmus test for lots of various private aid. I did not use any private aid, so I don't know the specifics, but many organizations required proof from FEMA that you were affected. I heard stories of a coworkers ne'er-do-well adult child who had collected thousands in FEMA for his rental housing and cars and then was gaming the system and collecting money from all sorts of churches and anything he could get his hands on.
I think FEMA is an important agency in the immediate wake of a natural disaster, but I certainly believe it can be improved upon.
weston, thanks for your reply. I had searched around the Fema website and it didn't really say who actually got approved for help. I am glad many received help when they needed it.
Jennipurr it seems like your answer outlines the reasons why we have such a big deficit. A well intentioned program is ripe for fraud and helping people that don't really need it. Your experience with non insured people is particularly disturbing. Why would you qualify for help with an uninsured car that was illegal? It doesn't seem right.
Maybe getting these types of programs straightened out would be helpful in getting our spending under control. It seems like the same old story. Good ideas getting convoluted and people taking advantage of the loopholes while hard working honest people just continue to pay taxes and not benefit as much as those who are not as honest.
Originally Posted by flowerseverywhere
I bet FEMA's roll will become more and more important as our weather seems to become more extreme and damaging.