Each year, and season, we hear about the latest natural disaster around the country: fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, the list seems endless about the damages the weather brings us. Not all areas affected by disaster are equal.
The first step to begin rebuilding and getting the help you need is for it to be declared a disaster area by the President of the United States. Once the area has been named a disaster area, you're able to contact the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) for help. There are many levels of FEMA support, from local county and state agencies to the federal level.
You may receive federal assistance in various forms such as housing, medical and other needs while rebuilding efforts are underway.
Eligibility for Assistance
You must meet certain qualifications to receive FEMA aid, such as:
- You must live in an area categorized as a federal disaster area
- Your insurance claim does not cover the damage made to your property
- You or someone who lives with you is a citizen of the United States, a non-citizen national or a qualified non-citizen
- You cannot live in your home now, you cannot get to your home or your home requires repairs due to the disaster
Types of Assistance Available
FEMA provides several different types of assistance:
- Housing Needs: Money is available to temporarily rent a primary residence, if yours is uninhabitable because of the disaster. Money is also available for homeowners to repair or replace their primary residence if the damage is not covered by insurance. Direct assistance or money for the construction of a primary residence is available in rural or hard to reach areas, as specified by FEMA.
- Non-housing Needs: Money is available for necessary and serious expenses caused by the disaster, including disaster-related medical and dental costs, funeral and burial costs, clothing, household items, fuel, clean-up items and damaged vehicles.
- Additional Services: This includes crisis counseling, disaster unemployment assistance, legal services and special tax assistance and considerations.
Applying for Assistance
You can apply for assistance either online or over the telephone. The FEMA website provides an online application. The telephone number is 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).
You will need to have the following information available:
- Your Social Security number
- Current and pre-disaster address
- A telephone number where you can be contacted
- Insurance information
- Total household annual income
- Bank account information (if you want funds deposited directly into your account)
- An itemized description of your losses caused by the disaster
After you file an application, an inspector will contact you to inspect your property. A report is filed and a written response with the inspector's decision will be available in approximately 10 days after the inspection.
The Small Business Administration will assist you if you had a home-based business that was destroyed in the disaster.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Is this only for natural disasters? What about occurrences like September 11th?
- Why would a claim be denied?
- What can I do if my claim is denied?
- Does my state provide emergency response aid?