After a major disaster, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) tries to notify all disaster victims about the available aid programs and urge them to apply.
There are two main categories of disaster aid:
- Individual Assistance — This is for damage to residences and businesses or personal property losses
- Public Assistance — This is for infrastructure repair, public facilities and debris removal.
- Immediately after the declaration, disaster workers arrive and set up a central field office to coordinate the recovery effort.
- A toll-free telephone number is published for use by affected residents and business owners in registering for assistance.
- Disaster Recovery Centers are opened where disaster victims can meet with program representatives and obtain information about available aid and the recovery process.
- After the application is taken, the damaged property is inspected to verify the loss. If approved, an applicant will soon receive a check for rental assistance or a grant.
- Loan applications require more information and approval may take several weeks after application.
- The deadline for most individual assistance programs is 60 days following the President’s major disaster declaration.
- Audits are done later to ensure that aid went to only those who were eligible and that disaster aid funds were used only for their intended purposes. These federal program funds cannot duplicate assistance provided by other sources such as insurance.
Types of Individual Assistance
- Disaster Housing
- May be available for up to 18 months, using local resources, for displaced persons whose residences were heavily damaged or destroyed.
- Funding also can be provided for housing repairs and replacement of damaged items to make homes habitable.
- Disaster Grants
- Available to help meet other serious disaster-related needs and necessary expenses not covered by insurance and other aid programs. These may include replacement of personal property, and transportation, medical, dental and funeral expenses.
- Low-Interest Disaster Loans
- Available after a disaster for homeowners and renters from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to cover uninsured property losses.
- Loans may be for repair or replacement of homes, automobiles, clothing or other damaged personal property.
- Loans are also available to businesses for property loss and economic injury.
- Other Disaster Aid Programs
- Other programs include crisis counseling, disaster-related unemployment assistance, legal aid and assistance with income tax, Social Security and Veteran’s benefits.
- Other state or local help may also be available.
Public Assistance is aid to state or local governments to pay part of the costs of rebuilding a community’s damaged infrastructure. Generally, public assistance programs pay for 75 percent of the approved project costs.
Public Assistance may include debris removal, emergency protective measures and public services, repair of damaged public property, loans needed by communities for essential government functions and grants for public schools.
FEMA helps fund damage mitigation measures when repairing disaster-damaged structures and through the Hazard Mitigation. Disaster victims and public entities are encouraged to avoid the life and property risks of future disasters.
- the elevation or relocation of chronically flood-damaged homes away from flood hazard areas
- retrofitting buildings to make them resistant to earthquakes or strong winds
- adoption and enforcement of adequate codes and standards by local, state and federal government.
Photo Credit: FEMA