And Now For Something Completely Different: Great News!

Oct 3, 2007 by

Here we go, the latest email submission from Mr. Fix The Pumps! Brace yourself because this is really bizarre: good news! Take it away Matt…

Dear New Orleanians,

This morning, FEMA issued its new Disaster Specific Guidance (DSG) for the Relocation Assistance program. This is the program to reimburse folks affected by Katrina and Rita for moving back home or to a new permanent address. The guidance was issued internally to FEMA’s front line customer service folks.

Note that everything below is not official guidance from FEMA. You should call (800) 621-FEMA to get the complete scoop.

Now, on to the good news…

Previously, FEMA had restricted eligibility for the program for those people who moved between February 1, 2006 and February 29, 2008.

Today, that opening date has been changed to August 29, 2005! That means anyone that moved back after the storm (and who meets all the other tests for eligibility) is now eligible. In other words, FEMA is no longer penalizing the pioneers who came back – or those folks who decided to put down roots somewhere else – as soon as possible after the storm. The closing date remains the same – February 29, 2008.

I assume there will be a press release on this in the coming days, but here’s some more details, straight from the actual DSG (note you can’t have already received these benefits from another organization, such as the United Methodist Church, the Red Cross, or any other agency that might have provided the assistance):

– as before, the benefit is a maximum of $4000. That is counted toward the theoretical maximum Individuals & Families Program benefit of $26,200. Thus, if your household has not received more than $22,200, you could receive up to the maximum $4000.

– a new part of the benefit is that FEMA will pay for one night of hotel stay if the move was more than 400 miles. They’ll pay for the room and taxes, but not room service or any other hotel services. If you had more than one room, (due to occupancy restrictions or had more than 4 people in your group during the move), FEMA will pay for another room. For each additional 400 miles over the first 400, FEMA will pay one more night.

– as before, the move must be 50 miles or more

– FEMA will pay for truck rental, moving help, moving supply purchases from the rental company (boxes, tape, etc), car rental, and even gas. Apparently, receipts are only required for the gas purchases, although they also mention you can put in for mileage (assumedly at the standard gov’t reimbursement rate in effect at the time of the move, though I would wait until the official guidance is released to the public for that detail). If you don’t have receipts for anything else, I think you can supply estimates or you can call the moving or rental company to get a duplicate receipt. But receipts are always best.

– FEMA will not pay for gas if you used your private vehicle to move back (they feel you would have been doing so anyway as part of a normal evacuation, and that any extra expenses incurred in such a private-vehicle move were covered by the $2000 Emergency Assistance – I’m not saying I agree… I’m just passing along the reasoning). If you rented a trailer to tow behind, they will pay for that.

– FEMA’s still paying for plane, train, and bus tickets home, as long as you haven’t had them paid for by some other organization.

– the program has been opened up to everyone in the Katrina-and-Rita-affected counties and parishes in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Previously, this program was only open to Louisiana storm victims.

There’s a few more details (you can only apply for benefits resulting from one of the storms, not both), but the big news is the date change. This is pretty huge, and will benefit thousands of people.

FEMA has set up a special fax number if you wish to submit your receipts by fax. It is:

(877) 828-9388

If you want to mail in your paperwork, the address is:

FEMA Relocation Assistance


P.O. Box 10055

Hyattsville, MD 20782

As always, you should call 1-800-621-FEMA to register for the program and to get all the information. Ask to be transferred to a Relocation Assistance specialist. FEMA has specifically trained personnel to process this paperwork and answer aid recipients’ questions.

Note that FEMA has been holding off processing anyone’s Relocation Assistance claims that have been submitted in the last month (the program was announced August 27, 2007). They knew the program would be getting changed significantly, so they wanted to wait for the revised guidance. That way, everyone is being treated equally. According to the fellow I spoke with, processing of claims should begin today or tomorrow.

When the press release comes out, I’ll point you to it.

Matt McBride

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