Disaster Programs and Benefits

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab

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Disaster Programs and Benefits

This information covers the financial and other benefits a person might get after or during a disaster. It includes FEMA Benefits, housing help, food benefits, local help, and other public assistance programs. It covers who is eligible for this help, how to access it, how to maintain it, and other issues that might arise. This includes: 

  • Food Benefits 
  • FEMA Assistance 
  • SBA Disaster loans

The legal timeline below goes over the various disaster program and benefits and the legal needs that a disaster survivor might encounter. Expand each section of the timeline to learn about the various other issues a disaster survivor might face. Each issue below is included as information in the relevant tabs on this page. 

Disaster Programs and Benefits Legal Needs After a Disaster

These are some of the short-term issues - 1 to 6 weeks after a disaster event related to disaster benefits and assistance: 

  • Getting Disaster SNAP Benefits

  • Understanding What Losses FEMA May Cover

  • Applying for FEMA Assistance

These are some of the medium-term issues - 1 to 6 months after a disaster event related to disaster benefits and assistance: 

  • FEMA Inspections, after applying for assistance
  • Appealing FEMA Denials

  • SBA Home Disaster Loans

These are some of the long-term issues - 6 months to years after a disaster event related to benefits and assistance: 

  • Defending against FEMA "recoupment" (when they ask for assistance benefits back)

Food Benefits

Food Benefits

Disaster survivors may need to access Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits whether they already are getting regular SNAP benefits or they are eligible for benefits in a disaster-impacted area. A disaster can trigger a few different types of “emergency” SNAP benefits. You must be eligible to get benefits. 

Disaster survivors who are also SNAP clients are eligible for additional benefits in the event of a disaster. The benefits are automatically loaded onto their EBT cards. 

To prepare for hurricane season or other disasters, pre-registering for Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) can help speed up the process to get benefits. Pre-registration allows disaster survivors to get a head start on the phone application and interview if DSNAP gets ordered for the parish. DSNAP provides low-to-moderate income households who do not normally have access to SNAP benefits with help buying groceries due to a lost income or damages following a disaster. 

Disaster survivors who are not normally eligible for SNAP may qualify for DSNAP because of their disaster-related expenses, damage to property, and in some cases, loss of food due to power outages. Loss of income is considered a disaster-related expense. SNAP recipients are not typically eligible for DSNAP and should not apply for DSNAP. Those benefits will be handled through a separate process after a disaster. 

To learn more about check out the resources available: 

Disaster survivors who are current SNAP recipients may be eligible for additional benefits after a disaster event. Additional benefits are automatically loaded onto the EBT card for the disaster survivor to use. Replacement SNAP benefits help SNAP recipients who lost food purchased with SNAP benefits due to a power outage. Supplemental SNAP benefits may help SNAP recipients get more benefits if they are not already getting the maximum amount. Disaster survivors may be eligible for these benefits if DSNAP is approved for the parish and there is a federal disaster emergency declaration for the parish. 

To learn more about check out the resources available: 

FEMA Assistance

FEMA Assistance

Disaster survivors might need to access benefits through FEMA, which provides two programs to those who live and work in disaster areas - there's the Individuals and Households Program, or IHP and then longer-term disaster recovery efforts through the Small Business Administration, which FEMA works through to help cover costs after a disaster. 

To learn more about losses FEMA covers check out the resources available: 

Disaster survivors might want to understand what losses FEMA covers after a disaster. FEMA differs from insurance in that it only provides the basic needs to make a home safe, sanitary, and functional. It does not replace everything that is damaged. The property damage must be related to the declared disaster. Every disaster survivor's situation is different and assistance calculated by FEMA may vary. Disaster survivors may also get funds for evacuation expenses and rental assistance. 

To learn check out the resources available: 

Disaster survivors might apply for basic needs assistance and housing assistance through FEMA. FEMA has two parts of assistance including housing assistance and other needs assistance. These two parts provide aid for the long-term repair or replacement of critical personal property. Disaster survivors might prepare to apply for FEMA by documenting the damage and keeping receipts. 

To learn more check out the resources available: 

Disaster survivors might expect to go through a FEMA inspection process after applying for FEMA assistance after a disaster. After an application is made to FEMA, FEMA must determine if a home inspection is needed to verify disaster-related damage to your home or personal property. Disaster survivors who applied to FEMA and reported that they cannot live at home due to damage may be contacted by FEMA to schedule an exterior inspection. The applicant or co-applicant must meet with the inspector at the home. The inspector validates the damage and decides whether assistance is necessary. 

To learn more check out the resources available: 

Disaster survivors might apply to FEMA and later be denied FEMA assistance to help with disaster damages and expenses. Once an applicant understands the reasons for ineligibility they can decide to appeal the decision by sending a letter to FEMA. The letter must describe the reason(s) for appealing. 

To learn more about appealing to FEMA check out the resources available: 

Disaster survivors who get a FEMA recoupment letter must read the official communication carefully and take action immediately. Recoupment is necessary when the money for FEMA was used inappropriately, there is a duplication of benefits, funds were obtained by fraud, or financial aid was provided by error. Disaster survivors who might get a Notice of Potential Debt Letter or recoupment letter should review them and submit an appeal within 60 days from the date of the letter. FEMA does not accept late appeals for recoupment. 

To learn more about FEMA recoupment issues check out the resources available: 

SBA Disaster Loans

SBA Disaster Loans

SBA Home Disaster Loans

Disaster survivors that might be homeowners and renters may apply to the SBA for loans to recover uninsured and underinsured losses from a disaster. Homeowners can apply for a real property loan to repair or restore their primary residence to its pre-disaster condition, to protect the damaged property from a similar disaster in the future, and to make upgrades and changes required by city building codes. Renters and homeowners may also apply for a personal property loan to repair or restore personal property items, including automobiles, furniture, or clothing, damaged or lost in a disaster.

To learn more check out the resources available: 

Last Review and Update: Nov 30, 2022
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