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What Seniors Should Know About Federal Disaster Assistance

Release date: 
June 15, 2011
Release Number: 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Seniors need not worry about losing Social Security and Medicare benefits if they receive federal disaster assistance as a result of the recent severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding that struck Tennessee.

Disaster assistance grants are not considered taxable income and will not affect Social Security or Medicare.

The first step for seniors or anyone else seeking federal aid is to register with FEMA:

  • By phone, call 800-621-FEMA (3362) from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CDT. Assistance is available in many languages. Those who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability may use TTY 800-462-7585;
  • By computer, go online to;
  • By smartphone or tablet, use

Seniors and others who apply for FEMA help may receive a disaster loan application from the U.S. Small Business Administration. They should be sure to fill it out and return it. Although no one is obligated to take a loan, those who fail to complete the SBA application may disqualify themselves for other types of assistance.

Some seniors with paid-off mortgages may wonder why they would want a long-term government loan. But if they need funds to restore their homes to pre-disaster condition, a low-interest loan from the federal government might be the best solution. The SBA offers disaster loans up to $200,000 to repair or replace homes and up to $40,000 to homeowners and renters for personal property losses. Interest rates are as low as 2.688 percent.

In addition to applying for federal aid, those who are insured should file claims with their insurance companies. FEMA cannot provide funding for insured losses. Even when survivors are insured, FEMA may be able to provide some assistance when insurance settlements are delayed, settlements are insufficient to meet disaster-related needs, or claimants have exhausted their coverage for Additional Living Expenses.

On May 1, a presidential disaster declaration (DR-1974) made federal aid available to eligible individuals in Bradley, Greene, Hamilton, and Washington counties for help with losses caused by severe storms and flooding beginning April 19. Subsequently, on May 4, an amendment to the disaster declaration opened federal funding to eligible people in Bledsoe, Cocke, Johnson, McMinn, Monroe, and Rhea counties. On May 27, Carroll, Crockett, Hardin, Henry and Madison counties were added, and Knox and Montgomery counties were added on June 2.

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

FEMA's housing assistance and Other Needs Assistance grants for medical, dental, and funeral expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA loan officers to be considered for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses. Applicants who do not qualify for a SBA loan may be eligible to receive Other Needs Assistance grants for these items.

Last Updated: 
January 3, 2018 - 12:19