Disaster assistance is financial or direct assistance to individuals and families whose property has been damaged or destroyed as a result of a federally-declared disaster, and whose losses are not covered by insurance. It is meant to help you with critical expenses that cannot be covered in other ways. This assistance is not intended to restore your damaged property to its condition before the disaster.
While some housing assistance funds are available through our Individuals and Households Program, most disaster assistance from the Federal government is in the form of loans administered by the Small Business Administration. Additional forms of assistance offered by the Federal government can be found on DisasterAssistance.gov.
In addition to the self-help efforts of individuals and families and the efforts of local government, voluntary agencies are a key part of the effective response to and recovery from a disaster.
Voluntary agencies such as the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army and other Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) are an essential part of any disaster relief effort, providing critical assistance with food, shelter, clothing, household items, medical expenses, clean-up, repairs, and rebuilding.
Individual Assistance Programs
Individual Assistance Programs include grant programs administered by the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and a loan program administered by Individual Assistance Programs include grant programs administered by the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)the Small Business Administration. These programs provide assistance to individuals, families, homeowners, renters, and businesses. If these programs are included in a presidential declaration, the public will be notified of the declaration through the local media.
The Disaster Assistance Improvement Program’s (DAIP) mission is to provide disaster survivors with information, support, services and a mechanism to access and apply for disaster assistance through collaborative, data-sharing efforts between federal, tribal, state, local and private sector partners.
Step 1 - Before You Apply
Learn what disaster assistance is and what you should know before applying for assistance.
What is Disaster Assistance?
- Assistance is for to individuals, families and businesses.
- Assistance is for losses that are not covered by insurance.
- Assistance is only available in counties with federally declared disasters.
- Intended to help with critical expenses, not to restore a property to its condition before a disaster.
- Mostly in the form of loans administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to home renters, homeowners, and businesses.
- Some assistance is available through FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program for temporary housing, home repair, replacement, and, in rare instances, permanent or semi-permanent construction.
- Other assistance through FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program may be available for non-housing needs such as medical and dental expenses, funeral and burial expenses, household items, tools required by your job, necessary educational materials, fuel for a primary heat source, clean-up items, disaster-related vehicle damage, and moving and storage related to the disaster.
- If you have immediate needs for food, water or shelter, you may contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767) or the United Way by dialing 2-1-1 from a landline phone. Please see the following site for additional information: http://www.211us.org/status.htm
- Disaster Recovery Center - a location where you can speak with someone from FEMA in person for information about FEMA assistance and other disaster assistance programs.
- Where applicable, find a hotel that is participating in FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) Program.
- FEMA Housing Portal to find rental housing.
- Find family members with the FEMA National Emergency Registry and Locator System (only activated during major disasters) or with the Red Cross Safe & Well Listings.
Step 2: Apply For Assistance
You can apply for FEMA disaster assistance on your compute or smartphone, by phone, or in-person to FEMA Representative.
- APPLY WITH COMPUTER or SMART PHONE: Apply online at DisasterAssistance.gov, a FEMA website where you can apply and check the status of your application using a web browser or mobile device. You can also take the DisasterAssistance.gov Anonymous Questionnaire and see what additional agencies may be able to help you.
- APPLY BY PHONE: Call (800) 621-3362. Disaster applicants who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY can call 1-800-462-7585 directly. Those who use 711 or Video Relay Service can call 1-800-621-3362. Find a Disaster Recovery Center where you can speak with someone from FEMA in person for information about FEMA assistance and other disaster assistance programs.
- APPLY IN PERSON: Apply with a member of the FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance Team (DSAT) who may walk from door-to-door in your community.
Step 3: After Your Apply:
I applied for assistance. What next?
- FEMA recommends you create an account online at DisasterAssistance.gov to check the status of your registration, update your insurance and bank information and add or update contact information. You can also view and print correspondence from FEMA. You are not required to create an account to apply for FEMA assistance.
- FEMA will send you a copy of your application, which should arrive either via U.S. mail or, if you elected to receive email correspondence, in your Disaster Assistance Account via email. FEMA will also send you an Applicant’s Guide to the Individuals & Households Program to assist you with the process.
- If you have insurance that may pay for the damage, you must:
- File your insurance claim.
- Provide FEMA with a decision letter (settlement or denial) from your insurance company.
- FEMA will review your submitted documents and will contact you. An inspector may contact you to schedule a time to review your damages.
Important Note: If you were referred to the Small Business Administration (SBA), you will receive an SBA application that you must complete and return in order to be considered for some types of FEMA assistance.
When can I expect to receive FEMA assistance?
- If you qualify for assistance, FEMA will send you a check by mail or will make a deposit in your bank account (whichever method you chose when you first applied). You will also receive a letter describing the type of assistance for which the money should be used.
- If you do not qualify for assistance, FEMA will send you a letter explaining the reason. The letter will also explain your rights to file an appeal if you disagree with the reason provided by FEMA.
Check the status of my application
- If you’ve created an account you can check the status of your application at DisasterAssistance.gov. Call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Disaster applicants who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY can call 1-800-462-7585 directly. Those who use 711 or Video Relay Service can call 1-800-621-3362. You can also visit a Disaster Recovery Center. NOTE: After applying for assistance, please wait 24 hours before checking the status of your application. Applying more than once will result in a delay in your application.
Frequently Asked Questions after applying for assistance
- DisasterAssistance.gov – What is Disaster Assistance: https://www.fema.gov/what-disaster-assistance
- Illinois.gov – Disaster Recovery: http://www.illinois.gov/ready/after/pages/disaster-recovery.aspx
- Image Source: http://www.fema.gov/apply-assistance [Accessed August 16, 2013]
- Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) – Apply for Assistance – Website: http://www.fema.gov/assistance/
- DisasterAssistance.gov – Website: http://www.disasterassistance.gov