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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Does FEMA conduct debris removal from my residence?

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.

Does FEMA provide unemployment assistance after a disaster?

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. 

What should I do if I miss a phone call or a visit from a FEMA inspector after applying for assistance?

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.

How can I volunteer or donate? I want to help!

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.

How can I apply for a job at FEMA?

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

Does help from FEMA have to be paid back?

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.

After applying, you may be referred to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for an SBA disaster assistance loan as part of the disaster assistance process.  

FEMA works with SBA to determine if you should get money for personal property or transportation assistance from FEMA or SBA. FEMA is not allowed to provide money for these losses to people who may qualify for an SBA loan.  

FEMA will automatically refer you to SBA to be considered for a disaster loan if you meet SBA’s income standards. FEMA will use your household annual gross income and number of dependents to determine if FEMA will refer you to the SBA. 

You don’t have to accept an SBA loan offer; however, if you are approved and you do not accept it, you will not be referred back to FEMA for personal property or transportation assistance. You can 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

I was relocated and don't know if my home was damaged. Can I still apply for assistance?

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.

How do I know if my area is eligible for assistance?

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.

What basic information will I need when I apply?

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
Where do I update my information and check on the status of my application?

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.

Last updated September 27, 2022