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Disaster assistance is money or direct assistance to individuals, families and businesses whose property has been damaged or destroyed and whose losses are not covered by insurance. It is meant to help those in need with critical expenses that cannot be covered in other ways. The assistance is not intended to restore damaged property to its condition before the disaster. Some disaster assistance is specifically designated for housing needs.
The main federal agencies that provide disaster assistance for housing needs are:
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- The Small Business Administration (SBA)
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Presidentially Declared Disaster Area
To obtain federal housing needs disaster assistance from FEMA, SBA or HUD, your home must be located in a Presidentially Declared Disaster Area. This is any disaster for which the President issues a major disaster declaration and thereby authorizes individual or public assistance from the federal government. Cities, counties and other local areas that are designated as part of a major disaster area and are eligible for federal aid can be found on the FEMA Website or by calling the local FEMA office.
To qualify for assistance from FEMA, your losses must have occurred in an area covered by a disaster declaration. Also, if you have insurance, you must file a claim with your insurance company. Failure to file a claim with your insurance company may affect your eligibility for assistance.
“Housing needs” is one of the two types of disaster assistance available to individuals, families and businesses in an area whose property has been damaged or destroyed and whose losses are not covered by insurance. The other type of disaster assistance is labeled “Other than Housing Needs.”
Even if you have insurance, you may be able to get assistance from FEMA if any of the following are true:
- Your insurance settlement is delayed
- Your insurance settlement is insufficient to meet your disaster-related needs
- You have exhausted the Additional Living Expenses (ALE) coverage provided by your insurance company
- You are unable to locate rental resources in your area
FEMA does not provide money to individuals or households for losses that are covered by insurance.
To receive money or help from FEMA for “Housing Needs” that are the result of a disaster, all of the following must be true:
- You have losses in an area that has been declared a disaster by the President
- You have filed for insurance benefits and the damage to your property is not covered by your insurance or your insurance settlement is insufficient to meet your losses
- You or someone who lives with you is a citizen of the United States, a non-citizen national or a qualified alien
- The home in the disaster area is where you usually live and where you were living at the time of the disaster
- You are not able to live in your home now, you cannot get to your home due to the disaster or your home requires repairs because of damage from the disaster
Money is available to cover the following housing needs:
- Temporary housing
- Repair of damage from the disaster to your primary residence that is not covered by insurance
- Replacement of a home destroyed in a disaster that is not covered by insurance
- Permanent housing construction where no other type of housing assistance is possible
There are two options available to apply for disaster assistance from FEMA.
You may apply online through the Online Individual Assistance Center. If you prefer, you may call FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) and apply over the phone or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the speech and hearing impaired.
The SBA can make federally subsidized loans to repair or replace homes, personal property or businesses that sustained damages and were not covered by insurance. The Small Business Administration can provide home disaster loans to homeowners and renters to repair or replace disaster-related damages to home or personal property if they are qualified homeowners.
If you have insurance coverage on your home, the amount of insurance proceeds you will receive from the insurance company will be deducted from the total damage to your property in order to determine the amount for which you are eligible to apply to the SBA.
To be eligible for a Disaster Loan from the SBA, an individual must be located in a Declared Disaster Area. Insurance proceeds or any other type of compensation must be either first used or pledged to the loan. You can get more information about this program on the SBA Website.
You may file your loan application through the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) Website. The ELA simplifies the application process and speeds delivery of assistance to you. The ELA allows anyone with damages to their home or business resulting from a declared disaster to apply for disaster loan assistance. Homeowners and Renters can apply for damages to their home, personal property, and vehicles. You also have the option of submitting your application via mail. Individuals that are Homeowners and Renters must register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to obtain a FEMA Registration ID Number by calling 1-800-621-3362. The speech or hearing impaired may call (TTY) 1-800-462-7585.
The Home Mortgage Insurance for Disaster Victims program is administered by HUD and can help individuals purchase a new home or rebuild their house if they are victimized by a major disaster. While HUD does not lend money directly to buyers to rebuild or purchase, FHA-approved lenders make loans through this special insurance program.
To qualify for this benefit program, you must be a current or prospective homeowner with a home destroyed or damaged in an area that has been declared a disaster by the President. You can get more information about this program on the HUD Website.
Check the FEMA – Agencies that May Be of Assistance to You for Selected Disaster Web site to see if you are eligible for additional housing needs disaster assistance.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Can money designated as housing needs assistance be used to repair septic and water systems?
- What happens after I apply for housing needs disaster assistance?
- What is a Disaster Recovery Center and what services do they provide?