By Makalika Naholowaa, NHLC Executive Director
FEMA recently announced an extension of time to apply for aid. The new deadline for FEMA applications is Thursday, November 9. In our October article we answered questions about whether to apply for aid and concerns people have about FEMA. You can find that article at www.kawaiola.news. Many families have applied and have questions about what happens next. This month we are providing information about next steps. Anyone affected is also welcome to call NHLC if you have other questions.
After I applied, I never heard back from FEMA. What should I do?
FEMA will send you a letter notifying you of their decision in response to your application for aid. They will deliver the letter the way that you requested when you applied. That could be physical mail or by email. If you have not received a letter, then you can create an electronic account online at DisasterAssistance.gov. When FEMA sends you correspondence, it will also be uploaded to your online account. As long as you register online, you can check for letters from FEMA there. You should check frequently when you are waiting for a FEMA response, in case you do not receive your physical mail or email.
If you need help setting up your FEMA account online, or if you are not able to create an online account, you can talk to a FEMA agent. FEMA agents can look up your account and tell you the status. They can also answer questions about next steps. FEMA can be contacted by phone at 1-800-621-3362 or in person at locations where FEMA is available, including at the Lahaina Civic Center.
I applied to FEMA and got a letter that said I was not approved. What should I do now?
If FEMA denies your request for aid, they will issue a letter. The letter will tell you the reasons for the refusal and explain what they need from you if there is an opportunity for you to request that FEMA reconsider your application. The letter will also include the deadline to respond. If you reply requesting that FEMA reconsider, that is called a FEMA Appeal. You should reply by the deadline and provide FEMA with the information they request.
Can I have help with my FEMA appeal?
If you need help with the appeal, there are resources available. You do not have to do it yourself. You can seek legal assistance. The Hawaiʻi State Bar Association may be able to direct you to pro bono attorneys. The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC) is supporting families needing help with FEMA appeals pro bono (at no fee). You can contact NHLC at 808-521-2302 to request help with your FEMA appeal.
My appeal was not successful. Should I try again?
Yes. FEMA must consider your first appeal as long as you submit it by the deadline in your denial letter. FEMA may, at its discretion, consider late appeals or additional appeals. If you need to make a late appeal, or an additional appeal after your first, you may benefit from legal assistance with your appeal.
Where can I learn more and apply for FEMA?
FEMA information and an online way to apply are available at www.disasterassistance.gov/. You can also find FEMA’s information page for Maui here: www.fema.gov/disaster/4724. Guidance and information for Maui is being frequently updated. FEMA, NHLC, and numerous other legal providers are also regularly staffing the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement’s Kākoʻo Maui Resource Center at Maui Mall.
E Nīnau iā NHLC provides general information about the law. E Nīnau iā NHLC is not legal advice. You can contact NHLC about your legal needs by calling NHLC’s offices at 808-521-2302. You can also learn more about NHLC at nativehawaiianlegalcorp.org.