If you do not have flood insurance and are seeking federal assistance (if you have flood damage, you should be doing this), your first step is to contact FEMA, as their assistance comes in the form of grants, which do not need to be paid back. Register online at DisasterAssistance.gov, call 1‐800‐621‐FEMA (3362), or visit a Disaster Recovery Center in your area (locator here).
What can FEMA help with?
FEMA can help with temporary housing, lodging expenses reimbursement, repairs to your primary home (not a small business or secondary home), and replacement and construction of housing that isn’t covered by insurance. FEMA also offers disaster assistance for some of your other disaster-caused expenses including, medical and dental, child care, funeral and burial, essential household items, moving and storage, vehicle, and some clean-up items.
The application process should take about 20 minutes. Have ready your SSN, your gross household income, contact information, and insurance information. Just like with insurance, documenting and photographing damage will be helpful in this process.
Who is eligible?
You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to apply for long-term FEMA assistance. Legal permanent residents, those who have been granted asylum, refugees, those who have been granted humanitarian parole for 1 year, those whose deportation has been withheld because of their status as a political refugee, Cuban or Haitian immigrants under the REAA, and survivors of domestic violence who have a pending petition for relief are ALL eligible for FEMA assistance. Only one person in your household needs to qualify, so mixed status households should apply.
After you apply
You might also receive an application for an SBA loan (see next section). This won’t disqualify you from receiving FEMA assistance. An inspector will contact you to schedule a visit. The visit will be about 30-40 minutes and you must be present. Be ready to show your ID, proof of occupancy (utility bill or lease), and proof of ownership (deed, title, mortgage payment book, tax receipts).
Small businesses should apply directly for SBA disaster loans.
During the inspector’s visit
The inspector will wear a FEMA ID badge and ask to verify your identity, ownership, and occupancy. They will confirm your disaster registration number, review damages to structure and personal property, and ask you to sign documentation.
Inspectors WILL NOT determine eligibility on the spot, cost money, ask for credit card information, or take the place of an insurance inspection. If an “inspector” does or promises any of these things or is not wearing an official FEMA ID badge, report them as fraudulent to FEMA: 1-866-720-5721.
After the visit, you will receive a decision letter. If approved for aid, funds will be sent as a check or EFT and you will receive a follow-up letter detailing how funds can be used.
If you are denied or not provided with adequate assistance, you can also look into the Other Needs Assistance grant for additional funding, a disaster loan, and help from volunteer agencies.
If you are approved for Transitional Shelter Assistance, you can find participating hotels here. If you must stay at a non-participating hotel, save your receipts to apply for reimbursement.