Disaster assistance from other sources—such as insurance—is considered when determining the amount of aid given by FEMA to those affected by the Kilauea volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in Hawai‘i County. This avoids “duplication of benefits” and FEMA cannot provide aid that duplicates what a survivor receives from other sources.
Applicants eligible for federal assistance that does not duplicate another benefit receive their funds by check or direct deposit. A letter explaining the type and amount of assistance and what it must be used for arrives within a day or two of the check or direct deposit payment.
Aid from FEMA may include the following.
- FEMA’s Rental Assistance is provided to the survivor to temporarily rent housing for their entire household. The amount received is based on local fair market rates determined by FEMA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
- FEMA’s Home Repair Assistance helps with essential repairs to ensure the home is safe, sanitary and functional. The amount provided is based on disaster-related damage and the estimated cost of repairs, or the program’s maximum of $34,000 for 2018. Destroyed Home Replacement Assistance is provided towards a home destroyed by the disaster. The award is capped at $34,000 for 2018.
- Personal Property Assistance is to repair or replace items damaged by the disaster. The amount provided is based on the damage caused by the disaster and the estimated cost of repairs/replacement.
- Other Need Assistance provides funding for necessary expenses and serious needs caused by the disaster. This includes medical, dental, childcare, funeral, essential needs expenses, group flood insurance policy (when applicable), personal property, transportation, and moving and storage.
If an applicant spends their FEMA aid on anything other than the purpose for which it is directed, he or she may be denied assistance the next time a disaster strikes. In some cases, FEMA will ask that the money be returned.
Some survivors are offered low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. While no one is required to take the loan (or any portion of that loan), the full amount offered may be considered a benefit—that cannot be duplicated—whether accepted or not.
Other disaster-related funding providers—such as HUD and other long-term sources—may look at the amount of aid a survivor receives from FEMA aid its intended uses. They will also look at the amount offered by the SBA. This is also to prevent duplicating benefits.
Those receiving assistance are urged to keep receipts of their disaster spending for three years to document the money was used to meet disaster-related needs. If a recipient receives an insurance settlement to cover the same expenses, he or she must reimburse FEMA. Random audits are conducted to confirm funds were spent properly.
Questions on FEMA assistance may be answered by calling FEMA’s Helpline at 800-621-3362.