In practice, the $5 million “cap” on an EM declaration limit is not a hard limit, and provides a requirement that FEMA notify Congress when an emergency goes above $5 million. In order for the cap to be exceeded, the President must determine that: continued emergency assistance is immediately required; there is a continuing and immediate risk to lives, property, public health or safety; and necessary assistance will not otherwise be provided on a timely basis. Whenever the limit is exceeded, the Stafford Act directs the President to provide a report to Congress on the nature and extent of emergency assistance requirements. It is relatively common for this “cap” to be exceeded prior to issuance of a major disaster declaration.
FEMA's mission is to help people before, during and after disasters.