Federal/State Team Makes Disaster Assistance Easy

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Release date: 
October 4, 2002
Release Number: 

Indianapolis, IN -- Most federal disaster assistance programs are designed to meet emergency needs in the form of disaster grants for immediate housing requirements and emergency repairs. These programs are meant to help people begin their recovery; they are not designed to return people's lives to their pre-disaster conditions.

By contrast, low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) help homeowners, renters and business owners make a down payment on their future. SBA is the primary source of long-term disaster recovery loans for homeowners, renters, and businesses of all sizes.

Understanding the steps of the recovery process can help people reduce the stress brought on by disaster and sort out the information available. This will help them make the decisions required to begin rebuilding their lives.


During disasters, emergency services including medical, fire, or evacuation, are provided by local and state first responders. Short-term emergency needs, such as shelter, food, and clothing, normally are provided through a number of voluntary agencies like the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and faith-based organizations, among others.


  • The only way to apply for disaster assistance is to call the special toll-free number at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). The number for the speech and hearing impaired is TTY 1-800-462-7585. The phone lines are open between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. daily, until further notice. This is the only way to apply and begin the assistance process.

  • During the call, which usually takes only 15 - 20 minutes, you will be asked general information about your income, your insurance and how badly your residence or business was damaged. You should give details about your housing needs.

  • You will be given an application number, which will help locate your application in the system in the future. Write this number down so you will have it handy.

  • Disaster Recovery Centers may be located in your area to provide a place you can ask questions and talk with disaster recovery specialists face-to-face. Call 800-621-FEMA (3362) for locations.


  • Within seven to ten working days, a FEMA inspector will call you to make an appointment to visit your damaged home or apartment.

  • The FEMA inspector will look at disaster-related damages as they relate to federal programs.

  • You will be asked to sign a form stating that you were lawfully present in the United States at the time of the disaster. You will need to present identification.

  • If you qualify for the FEMA disaster housing program, within approximately one week after your inspection you may get a check and separate letter explaining how you may use the funds. This may be just the first type of assistance you may be eligible for.

  • This U.S. Government disaster housing assistance check may be used for rental assistance if your home or apartment is unlivable because of the disaster.

  • If you are a homeowner, the check may be a FEMA grant for essential repairs to make your residence safe, secure and sanitary. The housing repair grant is only for essential needs and for primary rooms such as the bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom.

  • FEMA does not make you whole again, but we can gi...
Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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