For Disaster Aid to be available the President must have issued a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration after a disaster, such as a hurricane. A Major Disaster Declaration allows the government to authorize Individual and Housing Assistance in the disaster area. Individual and Housing Assistance is available to individual people and families in the disaster area.
There are two types of Individual and Housing Assistance:
How much aid is available?
- The quantity of aid available varies year by year. The current year amounts can be found on FEMA's website.
Who Qualifies for Aid?
Generally, an applicant must be a U.S. Citizen, non-citizen alien, or a qualified alien to receive aid. If you are unsure if your status qualifies you or your family to receive FEMA Aid please seek counsel from an immigration attorney.
FEMA Aid and Insurance:
FEMA aid can only cover what Insurance and other forms of aid do not. It is best practice to file a claim with your insurance company before applying to FEMA for aid. If the insurance company denies the claim or the claim doesn't cover the extent of the damages, FEMA aid may help cover some of the damage in excess of the insurance claim.
There are six different types of Housing Assistance. For some disasters all types of Housing Assistance are available, but for other disasters only some of the Housing Assistance options are available, it depends on what is authorized in the Presidential Disaster Declaration. You can find out what specific Disaster Assistance is available in your area by going to www.disasterassistance.gov and entering your zip code.
The types of Housing Assistance are:
- Lodging Expense Reimbursement: this aid reimburses homeowners or renters who had to find other lodging while their homes were inaccessible or had a utility outage after a disaster. This is only meant to cover short term expenses that are not already covered by homeowners/renters insurance or another aid program.
- Rental Assistance: This aid helps homeowners or renters pay rent for temporary housing, while the applicant's primary residence is undergoing repair from the disaster. Rental Assistance will only be available if the applicant's insurance does not cover the cost of renting temporary housing.
- Home Repair Assistance: This aid is money that may be available to homeowners to repair disaster damage to their primary residence. This aid only covers any repair that is not covered by the applicant's homeowner's insurance.
- Home Replacement Assistance: This aid is money to help homeowners replace, i.e. purchase a new home, an owner-occupied primary residence that was destroyed by the disaster. This aid cannot exceed the amount of aid available for Housing Assistance, and will most likely not cover the entire cost of a replacement home.
- Temporary Housing Assistance: Financial assistance may be available to homeowners or renters to rent a temporary place to live for a limited period of time. Temporary Housing Assistance is only available when Rental Assistance is not, generally because there are no units available to rent on the open market. Temporary Housing Assistance can take many forms, such as a condo or apartment rented directly through FEMA, or a RV, or manufactured home, or trailer. What is available depends on the location where the disaster occurred.
- Permanent Housing Construction: FEMA may build or provide money for the construction of a new home. This type of aid is very rare and only occurs in very specific circumstances, where no other type of Housing Assistance is possible.
For more information on FEMA Housing Assistance please see FEMA's website for the Individual and Housing Assistance Program.
Other Needs Assistance
There are two main categories of Other Needs Assistance:
- Non-Small Business Administration Loan Dependent; and
- Small Business Administration Loan Dependent.
If you require assistance that is Small Business Loan Administration ("SBA Loan") Dependent you will be required to fill out a Disaster Small Business Loan Application. If you do not qualify for the loan, or the loan would not cover the amount of aid needed, then you may apply for SBA Dependent aid. However, if you qualify for the SBA Loan and it covers your needs, then you will not be able to apply for aid. SBA Loans are intended for individuals and small businesses impacted by the disaster.
With Non-SBA Loan Dependent aid, the applicant is not required to do anything with the Small Business Administration and may apply for aid.
Not all types of Other Needs Assistance will be available for every disaster. To check what aid is available in your area after a disaster please go to www.disasterassistance.gov and enter your zip code into the search bar. It will tell you what disaster assistance is available in your area and in what amounts.
Types of Non-SBA Dependent Aid are:
- Personal Property Assistance
- Child Care Assistance
- Medical and Dental Expenses
- Funeral and Burial Costs
Types of SBA Dependent Aid are:
- Transportation Assistance
- Moving and Storage Assistance:
- Miscellaneous Expenses Assistance
- Critical Needs Assistance
- Group Flood Insurance Program
For more information on FEMA's Other Needs Assistance please see FEMA's website for the Individual and Housing Assistance Program.
Small Business Administration Loans
If an applicant's home is not in a livable condition, the applicant may receive money from FEMA to pay for essential repairs, but may not receive enough funds to fully recover the costs of repairs to their damaged home or to replace all of their personal property. Disaster Loans through the Small Business Administration may be available to such applicants. One does not need to apply for Other Needs Assistance to apply for a SBA Loan. For more information see their FAQ Page.
Before starting your application get your information ready, and have it on hand. FEMA has a checklist for what you need to apply. https://www.disasterassistance.gov/get-assistance/application-checklist
There are multiple ways to apply:
- Apply online https://www.disasterassistance.gov/
- Apply by phone, or
- Via an app, downloadable at https://www.disasterassistance.gov
- Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) if available and open, check the FEMA DRC Locator for open centers
If you need assistance with online application call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 .
Once the claim is filed your application is reviewed and you may be assigned an inspector to inspect damages to your property. Inspectors are independent contractors that do not work directly for FEMA. Beware of scammers. Inspectors will carry FEMA ID, and there is no fee for an inspection, so you do not need to give them credit or banking information. Inspectors assess type and extent of damage, they do not determine if you are eligible. With COVID, inspections may be remote inspections. See FEMA for more details. https://www,,.fema.gov/fact-sheet/individual-and-households-program-remote-inspections
If the home is still livable and the damage minimal instead of an inspection call you will receive a letter explaining your options. After the inspection is completed, the inspector will submit their findings. Generally it takes up to ten days after the inspector leaves. Based on the information, FEMA will send you a letter of determination to inform you of its decision to approve or deny your claim. This will tell you the amount and how it can be used. If you are eligible, payment will be sent as a check or electronic transfer.
Things to Keep in Mind:
- Be aware of and meet FEMA deadlines
- Remember FEMA Assistance is limited
- Calculate your property damages
- Always respond to FEMA letters requesting additional information
- Avoid filing multiple FEMA Applications for the same household
- Ask to see identification for unknown visitors to your home
- If your aid application is denied, act quickly to appeal the decision
- Save your receipts from all repairs
- Maintain Flood Insurance
- Don't duplicate your benefits
- Do not ignore FEMA's attempts to contact you
- Be accurate and consistent
To Learn More:
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