How to Apply for Disaster Assistance

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Release date: 
May 7, 1999
Release Number: 

WICHITA, Kan. -- The most important first step is to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) by calling 1-800-462-9029. For those who are hearing or speech impaired, call [TTY] 1-800-462-7585. You will receive information over the phone and by mail regarding programs available and phone numbers for local offices.

The phone interview is only the beginning of the application process. No decision is made about eligibility for one type of aid or other at this point. Callers receive information and applications-not goods or cash-based on these interviews. However, the information provided by the applicant allows the various agencies to make the necessary decisions.

The application process can be speeded up if you have the following information readily available:

  • Name
  • Current and pre-disaster address (if appropriate)
  • Proof of residency
  • Current telephone numbers
  • Insurance coverage; policy number(s) and agent's name

Applicants are urged to contact their insurance company and file necessary claims. PLEASE NOTE: Government assistance does not cover damage or losses already covered by private insurance.

Key Individual Assistance Programs

Federal disaster aid does not guarantee total recovery from all disaster losses. Assistance is limited to assisting in returning damaged or lost property to its pre-disaster condition or to meeting necessary expenses and serious needs through the following programs.

  • Temporary Housing Assistance: The Temporary Housing Assistance Program assures that people whose homes are damaged by disasters have a safe place to live until repairs can be completed. The type of assistance provided is determined by FEMA, based on criteria which assures that the option chosen is appropriate to the individual's need and can be delivered quickly. The basic forms of temporary housing are rental assistance and essential home repair. This assistance is provided if the applicant's own insurance will not provide for temporary housing assistance.

  • Disaster Loans: The Small Business Administration (SBA) can make federally-subsidized loans to repair or replace homes, personal property or businesses which sustained damages not covered by insurance. For many persons this loan program is the primary form of disaster assistance they receive.

  • Individual and Family Grants: This program, administered by the state but underwritten with 75 percent FEMA funding, can provide grants to meet disaster-related serious needs and necessary expenses not provided for by other programs, insurance or other means. Based on guidelines provided by the Small Business Administration, FEMA makes the determination as to whether the applicant needs to apply for a loan from SBA or if they are automatically referred to the grant program. Among needs that can be met with grant funds are housing repairs, home cleaning and sanitation, necessary household items, replacement of tools of the applicant's trade, clothing, transportation, and medical and dental expenses.

  • Other key programs an individual assistance designation can provide include emergency loans for farmers from the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Crisis Counseling, Disaster Unemployment Assistance, and tax relief from the IRS.
Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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