Flooded Basement in Metro Detroit? Here’s How to Apply for FEMA Disaster Assistance

If you have property or vehicle damage caused by the June 25-26 Southeast Michigan storm and are uninsured or underinsured, then you may be eligible for a grant.

Detroit home affected by basement flooding.

When President Joe Biden declared the storm that impacted metro Detroit on June 25-26 a major disaster, it released funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

As a result, uninsured or underinsured residents impacted by the storm can apply for grants to cover the cost of certain damages to their home and vehicle or to relocate if they are a renter.

“For the most part what we’d like to do is make sure that your home is safe and sanitized. And make sure that you’re living in a healthy environment,” says FEMA Public Affairs Specialist La-Tanga Hopes.

The agency has already approved nearly $50 million in grants to Southeast Michigan residents, including $28 million solely to Detroiters. But the application process can be confusing. That’s why WDET has answered some frequently asked questions about how to get money from FEMA.

Listen: FEMA spokesperson on how to apply for aid. 

What type of FEMA disaster assistance is available in Southeast Michigan?

Grants are available to uninsured and underinsured people in Wayne and Washtenaw counties with damages from the storms that took place on June 25-26.

How do I begin the FEMA application process?

You can go to FEMA’s disasterassistance.gov website, you can call 1-800-621-3362, or you can visit a Disaster Recover Center located in Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Detroit or Garden City. You can view address locations here. You can also use any of these methods to just get your FEMA questions answered.

What if I have insurance?

You should file with your insurance company first. But after you hear back from them, if it turns out there are things that they don’t cover or they didn’t cover everything then you should keep your claim handy and talk to FEMA.

What does FEMA cover?

FEMA’s No. 1 goal is to make sure your home is safe and sanitized and to make sure that you’re living in a healthy environment. The agency typically covers structural damages to your home and essential appliances. For example, it might pay to fix or replace your furnace, hot water heater, electrical system or roof. The agency might also pay for the removal of sewage or mold.

FEMA may replace damaged furniture or property if it’s located in a main floor kitchen, bathroom or bedroom. FEMA typically will not replace furniture in an additional non-essential living space like a “man cave,” den/TV room or workout room. It also typically won’t replace a non-essential appliance like a second refrigerator.

In general, FEMA does not pay to replace your personal belongings unless it fits into one of the above categories. The agency, for example, won’t likely pay to replace your stereo or record collection because those items aren’t considered essential. The agency’s goal is not to cover all of your losses, just the ones that you need to live a safe and healthy life. 

Russ McNamara
Russ McNamara

Does FEMA covers damage to vehicles?

It might. It’s not a bad idea to reach out to FEMA if your vehicle was damaged. The agency may end up sending you over to another organization, but if the other organization can’t help you then FEMA may be able to help pay for damage to your vehicle if it deems it essential to your livelihood and the damage wasn’t covered by your auto insurance. Outside of FEMA, the Small Business Administration offers loans to cover the cost of vehicle damage or replacement. You can find out more about that program here.

What if the damage occurred before or after June 25-26?

Currently the June 25-26 storm is the only weather event in Southeast Michigan that was declared a major disaster by President Joe Biden, therefore FEMA grants are only available for damage that occurred on those dates. That said, you may be able to receive money from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, Great Lakes Water Authority or the State of Michigan to pay for damage that occurred from other storms.

Can renters apply for FEMA assistance?

Renters are not able to use FEMA funds to have their homes repaired; the landlord has to do that. But if you’re a renter and you’re living in an unsafe or unhealthy environment as a result of damage caused by the June 25-26th storm then FEMA may pay for you to relocate. You may also be able to receive FEMA assistance for your vehicle, depending on your circumstances (see section on vehicles above).

Is money from FEMA considered taxable income?

No, if you receive a grant from FEMA, it is not taxable income. It won’t affect your eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid, TANF, SSI or other welfare programs.

Why does FEMA want me to apply for a loan with the Small Business Administration or seek funding with another organization?

Depending on your income and some other factors, FEMA may want you to apply for a loan with the Small Business Administration or funding from another organization before it gives you a grant. If you do as FEMA instructs and you apply for a loan with the SBA or seek funding with another organization and it does not give you assistance, then you may be able to go back to FEMA and get a grant from them.

What happens if my FEMA application is denied?

FEMA says a denial does not necessarily mean you won’t get funding from them. It may just mean that the agency needs more information from you or for you to take an additional step. Read your denial letter closely to make sure you’re not throwing in the towel too early. If you have any questions, FEMA strongly encourages that you give them a call or go to one of their walk-in Disaster Recovery Centers.

What’s the application deadline?

Sept. 13, 2021

Related Coverage

Detroit Continues Cleanup after June Floods as FEMA Tours Neighborhoods to Assess Damage
How to File a Claim, Clean Up Your Home and Get Help After Metro Detroit Flood

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  • Laura Herberg
    Laura Herberg is a Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here.