Temporary housing becomes major focus of Ida recovery; FEMA representative offers guidance on applications & appeals

Published 12:30 am Saturday, October 16, 2021

Editor’s Note 10-17-21: This story has been updated to provide information on generator reimbursement specific to Hurricane Ida.

LAPLACE — Housing has become a major focus as St. John moves forward in its Hurricane Ida recovery efforts, and Parish President Jaclyn Hotard was pleased to report that temporary housing units are beginning to arrive in the parish.

Hotard recently sat down with FEMA media relations specialist Gerard Hammink on Facebook Live to answer questions regarding housing and disaster assistance.

According to Hammink, the first step in determining eligibility for a FEMA trailer is to apply for FEMA assistance at disasterassistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362.

Residents are advised to answer phone calls from unknown numbers because it could be a FEMA representative calling to assess eligibility or schedule a property inspection for placement of a trailer. Please be aware that FEMA representatives will never ask for your social security number or any form of payment.

The State of Louisiana has also opened a program to meet the demand for temporary sheltering. Residents can apply now at idashelteringla.com.

Hotard encouraged residents in need of trailers to apply through both FEMA and the state sheltering program. While these are separate programs, the state sheltering program allows for reimbursement from FEMA.

Residents may also apply for FEMA assistance at a Disaster Recovery Center. St. John Parish has two DRCs operating daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Garyville Library parking lot (111 Historic Front in Garyville) and at the Edgard Library parking lot (2979 Highway 18 in Edgard).

“The good thing about the DRC is that if you don’t have the capability to upload documents online, you can bring those documents directly to the Disaster Recovery Center,” Hotard said. “It gives you that face-to-face interaction with FEMA because we know that many people have never navigated through this process, and it can be complicated.”

The deadline to sign up for assistance related to Hurricane Ida is October 29. While the deadline could be extended depending on how many people are still applying for assistance, Hammink urges residents to apply prior to October 29.

Latest estimates in St. John the Baptist Parish indicate that more than 18,000 residents have applied for assistance. Residents can check the status of an application by calling FEMA at 800-621-3362, visiting disasterassistance.gov or by visiting a Disaster Recovery Center.

All hope is not lost for those who have been denied by FEMA. Hammink shared that the appeal process is easy to navigate and can be as simple as bringing a handwritten letter explaining your situation to a Disaster Recovery Center.

For example, an individual may have been denied by FEMA if they indicated on the application that they are still living in their home. A handwritten letter could further explain that the individual is living in a home with extensive damage because they have no other options for sheltering. Hammink also encourages including documentation and photos with the appeal letter to give FEMA perspective on the severity of the situation.

Some renters may have been denied by FEMA because the address on their application matches a claim their landlord submitted.

“It can result in getting a letter that says not eligible because it looks like a duplicate registration. That is a situation where you might want to go to a Disaster Recovery Center to make it clear that you are a renter and not part of the household. That can be cleared up,” Hammink said.

Rental assistance is available through FEMA, and Hammink advises keeping good record of receipts from leases and money spent using FEMA grants.

During this week’s Facebook Live, residents also asked about reimbursement for generators.

Hammink said this is a case where every disaster response and recovery is different. Because of the extraordinary loss of electricity after Hurricane Ida, FEMA may provide up to $800 in reimbursement for the purchase or rental of a generator. The generator must have been purchased or rented on August 26 or later, due to a disruption in electrical utility service as a result of Ida.