Denver, CO -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Housing program was created to provide individuals and families impacted by disasters a safe place to live, either through grants to make basic home repairs or funds to pay rent for alternate housing.
In practice, each case is treated individually, and every situation is different. After the applicant's information is reviewed, a determination is made according to that person's need and the disaster assistance allowed by law.
All disaster assistance programs are a single phone call away. Residents who were impacted by the wildfires should register for recovery assistance whether their losses were insured or not. If insurance benefits are insufficient or exhausted, FEMA may still be able to help. The toll-free registration number at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the speech- and hearing-impaired is operational from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.
Two of the major adversities that arose during the Colorado fires were the destruction of homes and out-of-pocket expenses residents face as a result of evacuations. What follows are hypothetical scenarios that illustrate some of the various kinds of housing assistance that might be available to people impacted by this summer's wildfires.
Suppose a family left their home because of a mandatory evacuation and incurred temporary lodging costs. They should first check with their homeowner's or renter's insurance to see if they can receive Alternate Living Expenses which can cover hotel and motel bills and additional food costs, among other expenses.
People who left their home because of a mandatory evacuation, and have been out of their home for five days or more, incurring temporary lodging costs, may be eligible for rental assistance for uninsured lodging costs.
Even if the family's primary home wasn't damaged, they may still be eligible for housing assistance, if they incurred temporary lodging costs that were not covered by insurance, and they were out of their homes at least five days.
Evacuations Fewer Than Five Days
There may also be provisions for those who have been out of their homes fewer than five days and who incurred temporary lodging costs not covered by insurance. For example, if they returned to find that they did not have utility services or they could not safely access their house or the house was otherwise made unsafe by the disaster, they might be eligible. In these cases, the best step is to call to register and let FEMA determine what assistance may be available.
In addition, FEMA cannot reimburse those people who have evacuated for money paid to stay with family and friends.
Home damaged - Insurance
Perhaps a homeowner had damage done to her primary residence but has housing insurance that covers all expenses necessary to make the residence habitable. During the few days that her home was uninhabitable, she was able to stay with friends. Because she has no uninsured lodging expenses, she does not need an emergency housing grant from FEMA. In order to qualify for additional assistance for remaining losses not covered by her insurance, she can still register with FEMA. She may qualify for a low-interest loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to help restore her property to its pre-disaster condition.
Home damaged - No insurance
One homeowner has several thousand dollars i...