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Do you want to learn how to get FEMA funds? If so, you’re not alone. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is a government agency dedicated to disaster relief and assistance for those experiencing extreme hardships. From wildfires to pandemics, FEMA is designed to provide emergency rescue services, medical care, supplies, and even direct payments to those in need.
So, who qualifies for FEMA relief? If you qualify, how much FEMA assistance will you get? Finally, how can you apply for FEMA funds today? We will answer all of these questions and more, but first, let’s see what kind of assistance FEMA provides:
What does FEMA do?
Since 1979, FEMA has provided assistance to local and state authorities in the event of a disaster, natural or otherwise. When a local authority declares a state of emergency and requests direct help from the Executive Branch of the federal government, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is utilized to respond to the event. Services provided can include, but are not limited to:
- Pre-disaster analysis programs to reduce risks in the event of a disaster
- Pre-disaster mitigation grants
- Disaster medical assistance teams
- Urban search and rescue
- Mobile emergency response support
- Relief funds for state and local governments
- Relief funds for affected individuals and families
While the bulk of FEMA’s work involves direct disaster relief for state and local governments, it also deals directly with individuals and families. More specifically, FEMA provides aid to those who have experienced losses in the wake of a disaster.
Who qualifies for FEMA relief?
If you want to apply for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund, you will need to qualify for Individual Disaster Assistance. Generally speaking, you can qualify for Individual Disaster Assistance based on where you reside. For example, if you reside in a state, county, or city that has officially declared a state of emergency and requested federal assistance, you can qualify. However, even if your zip code is not in FEMA’s current index of affected areas, you can still begin your application. If and when your zip code is added to the index, your application will be processed.
Within FEMA’s Individual Disaster Assistance Program, there are various kinds of support for individuals. However, it’s important to note that not all of these programs supply direct funds. Instead, many provide services to people residing in disaster areas. Here are the four primary forms of assistance that FEMA provides to individuals:
- Disaster Legal Services (DLS)
- FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC)
- FEMA Individuals and Households Program (IHP)
- National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
To access FEMA funds, you will most likely need to apply for FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program, though the exact program will depend on the nature of the disaster. For example, if your house was damaged in a flood, you may qualify for compensation through the NFIP.
In any case, to qualify for IHP compensation, you will need to meet the following requirements:
- You have experienced losses or damaged property in a presidentially-declared disaster area
- You have no insurance or you’ve filed a claim and your insurance does not cover all of your losses
- You or someone in your household is a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien
- Your primary home is the one affected by the disaster
- You either can’t access your home or your home needs repairs as a result of the disaster
As you can see, FEMA grants are generally reserved for people who experience property damage during a disaster. FEMA does not provide Unemployment Insurance (UI) or aid for small businesses affected by disasters. If you’re unemployed as a result of a disaster, you’ll need to contact your local unemployment office. Alternatively, if you need a low-interest small business loan, you can contact the Small Business Administration.
How much FEMA assistance can I get?
If you meet the criteria above and your application is approved, the amount you receive will vary based on the extent of your losses. According to a 2016 study, FEMA pays out an average of $8,000 per household. However, that number can go as high as $33,000. Again, it will depend on the extent of your losses. A FEMA inspector will come to your home to evaluate the extent of your losses and determine (assuming you qualify) how much you will get in FEMA compensation.
How to apply for FEMA funds
To apply for FEMA funds, you will need to either submit an application at DisasterAssistance.gov, submit an application at your local FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC), or call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 (or 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing impaired). As part of your application, you will need to provide the following information:
- The address of your damaged home or apartment
- The names of everyone living in your household
- A description of the disaster-related damages
- Your insurance information
- Your Social Security number (if applicable)
- Your contact information
- Banking information for direct payment
Once you’ve submitted an application, a FEMA inspector will call and make an appointment to evaluate the damages. If you cannot keep this appointment, you will need to contact FEMA as soon as possible to reschedule. During the inspection, you or another adult living in the house will need to be present to answer questions and show the inspector all of the disaster-related damages. To learn more about this process, consult the FEMA Application FAQ Page.
What happens if my FEMA application is denied?
If your FEMA application is denied, you do have other options to get relief funds. First and foremost, if you feel that your application was wrongly denied, you can apply for an appeal. However, you can also apply for emergency funds through the Small Business Administration, even if you don’t own a small business. In fact, you can get an SBA loan of up to $200,000 (for homeowners) or $40,000 (for renters) to repair or replace damaged property. Otherwise, you will need to see if your state or city provides any form of disaster relief.
To learn more about FEMA denials, consult the FEMA Ineligibility FAQ Page.
FEMA is a federally-funded program that assists states, localities, and individuals in the event of a disaster. However, while FEMA provides a wide range of services and funds to local governments, funds for individuals or households are more limited in scope. It can be tricky to figure out how to get FEMA funds, as it will largely depend on when you apply and the scope of your disaster-related losses. However, if you follow the steps above and meet the necessary criteria, you can get your FEMA funds and begin the recovery process quickly.
If you’d like to learn more about your rights as a homeowner or renter in a disaster area, check out our guide to free legal aid in all 50 states!