Frequently Asked Questions About Disasters

This page offers answers to frequently asked questions about Individual Assistance for disaster survivors.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

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In limited circumstances—based on the severity of the effects of an incident and whether debris on private property threatens public health and safety or the economic recovery of the community—FEMA may determine that debris removal from private property is eligible under the Public Assistance Program. In such cases, FEMA works with the state, local, tribal or territorial governments to designate specific areas where debris removal from private property, including private waterways, is eligible. The debris removal must be in the public interest, not merely benefiting an individual or a limited group of individuals.

If you need immediate assistance with debris removal from a disaster, check to see if a Crisis Cleanup Hotline has been set up in your area.

Under a presidentially declared major disaster designated for Individual Assistance, a state, tribe, or territory may request Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA). DUA is funded by FEMA, and implemented by FEMA and the Department of Labor (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA). DOL-ETA works with the State Workforce Agencies to provide unemployment assistance to survivors who are unemployed or unable to access their jobs due to the disaster and who both meet all eligibility requirements for DUA and are ineligible for any other unemployment benefits from the state. 

For most types of disaster assistance, FEMA must verify your disaster-caused damage through an onsite or remote inspection. After you submit your application, FEMA staff or an inspector will call multiple times over several days to schedule a time to complete your inspection. Their number may appear as unknown or as a restricted phone number.

If FEMA is unable to reach you regarding your inspection, you will be sent a letter. Please follow the instructions in the letter for contacting FEMA and scheduling your inspection. Your application cannot be processed further until you take the appropriate steps based on the letter.

Do not re-submit or create a new application during the disaster assistance process. 

For general information about FEMA remote or onsite home inspections, please visit the Home Inspections page.

Money is the best way to help disaster survivors. Cash donations allow the voluntary agency to quickly address urgent needs.If you want to volunteer, you can find trusted organizations that are operating in affected areas by visiting National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters.

For more information on how you can help, visit our Volunteer and Donate page.

You can explore the FEMA Careers page to find your fit and see what opportunities are currently available.

No. In most cases, FEMA grants do not have to be paid back. If you have insurance that covers your temporary housing costs, but ask FEMA to advance you some money to help you pay for those costs while your insurance is delayed, you will need to pay that money back to FEMA after your receive your insurance settlement.

FEMA partners with other agencies to help meet the needs of disaster survivors. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest disaster loans to homeowners and renters in a declared major disaster area.

You may have been referred to SBA after applying for FEMA disaster assistance. If you still have unmet needs, loans may help with home repair or replacement, personal property, vehicles, mitigation, business losses, and working capital for small business and most private nonprofits.

Learn more about SBA disaster loans. You can also call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 if you have additional questions or need more information.  

FEMA assistance is not taxable income and won’t affect eligibility for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or other federal benefits.

If you were relocated or evacuated and don't know if your home was damaged, you can visit to apply for assistance online. You can also choose to call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 to tell an agent about your current situation. If you use a video relay service (VRS), captioned telephone service, or others, give FEMA your number for that service.

To apply for FEMA assistance, you will need to provide your:

  • Your address with zip code 
  • Condition of your damaged home, if known 
  • Insurance information, if available 
  • Social Security number 
  • Phone number where you can be contacted 
  • Address where you can get mail or email address to receive electronic notifications 
  • Annual household income
  • Account information, if you would like your assistance provided through direct deposit

The disaster declaration designates which areas are eligible to receive Federal assistance. To see if your area has been declared:

  1. Visit
  2. Enter your city or zip code into the look-up box.
  3. Find your county/parish under “declared counties.”

FEMA disaster assistance applications are typically accepted for 60 days from the date of the disaster declaration, but the application deadline may be extended further in some disasters.

You can apply or update your information online at, call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362, or through the FEMA mobile app.

If you use a video relay service (VRS), captioned telephone service, or other communication services, give FEMA your number for that service.

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