FEMA Individual Assistance

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab



Disaster survivors might need to apply for FEMA assistance. The Individuals and Households Program (IHP) is the only form of Individual Assistance (IA) that may be authorized under an emergency declaration. IHP provides financial and direct services to eligible individuals and households affected by a disaster who have uninsured or underinsured necessary expenses and serious needs. IHP is not a substitute for insurance and cannot compensate for all losses caused by a disaster; it is intended to meet the survivor's basic needs and supplement disaster recovery efforts. 

FEMA determines the appropriate types of Housing Assistance for which an individual or a household may be eligible based on disaster-caused loss, access-to-life-sustaining services, cost-effectiveness, and other factors. Individuals and households may receive more than one type of Housing Assistance, including a combination of financial assistance and direct services for disaster-caused damage to a disaster survivor's primary residence. Funds awarded for Home Repair and Replacement Assistance count toward an applicant's financial Housing Assistance maximum, which is an annually adjusted amount based on the U.S. Department of Labor's Consumer Price Index. 

If I Move, How Can I Make Sure I Still Receive Assistance?

If you move after applying for assistance, be sure to let FEMA know your new address and telephone number(s). This will ensure that all disaster award decision letters get to you without a delay (or as soon as possible). 

To update your information go online to www.DisasterAssistance.gov Go down to the Check your Application status bar and click on "login", then click "login now", here you will have a choice to login with your User ID and password or open an account. Update your address and/or phone number in the account. You can also call the FEMA Helpline, give the agent your FEMA application number and tell them you'd like to update your address and/or phone number. You can also go to a Disaster Recovery Center where they can help you update your contact information. 


I Need Disaster Assistance - Can FEMA Help?

It depends on the type of disaster damage. If your home is damaged and you cannot live there safely, you may be eligible for temporary housing assistance. If you’re a homeowner, you could also be eligible for money to help with the cost of repairing damages not covered by insurance. Owners and renters could be eligible for money to help replace furniture, clothes, or other damaged personal items. If you have other serious disaster-related needs, you could be eligible for money to help with expenses such as medical, dental, and transportation costs.

If you have insurance, please call your insurance company before calling FEMA. Only damages that are NOT covered by insurance can qualify for FEMA disaster assistance. By law, FEMA cannot duplicate benefits. Apply for assistance with FEMA. Apply online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 to apply by telephone.

To learn more about applying to FEMA visit our resource: 

Go to www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 or TTY 1-800-462-7585.

If you have questions that you’d like to ask in person, you can visit a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). There, You can ask questions and get information from FEMA and other federal, state, and volunteer agencies. You can also check on the status of your FEMA application. You can also talk with someone about a letter you received from FEMA. 

To find the nearest DRC location, you can check online at https://egateway.fema.gov/ESF6/DRCLocator or call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) TTY 1-800-462-7585

Losses and Claims

Understanding What Losses FEMA May Cover

FEMA assistance differs from insurance in that it only provides the basic needs to make a home safe, sanitary, and functional. FEMA only covers costs to make your home to safe and fit to live in. It does not replace everything damaged. Home damage must be related to the declared disaster. FEMA inspectors may contact survivors who apply to arrange for an inspection appointment.

As every survivor’s situation is different, FEMA calculations on what it may cover vary. Expenses for repairs that exceed the conditions to make a home safe, sanitary and functional are ineligible. Assistance depends on a host of factors like insurance coverage and, in some respects, the ability to pay.

FEMA may assist with the replacement of or repairs to disaster-damaged heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems as well as refrigerators and stoves. Other possible repairs that may be covered are utilities such as electrical, plumbing, and gas systems. Non-essential items like dishwashers and home-theater equipment are not covered.

FEMA grants may help to repair disaster-related leaks in a roof that cause damage to ceilings and threaten electrical components, like overhead lights, but will not pay for simple stains from roof leaks.

FEMA assistance may be used to repair a disaster-damaged subfloor in occupied parts of the home, but not floor covering like tile or carpet.

FEMA payments may assist with disaster-related broken windows, but not blinds or drapes.

Other FEMA help may include temporary expenses to pay for lodging if a survivor’s home is unlivable or assistance for replacing essential household items. 


FEMA Inspections

You will receive notification letters from FEMA either by U.S. mail or by electronic correspondence. You may need to verify your identity or complete a home inspection. After you apply with FEMA, your request for assistance is reviewed to determine if an inspection is needed to verify disaster-related damage to your home and personal property. A FEMA inspector will call to make an appointment if your home was damaged. Inspectors will have FEMA identification. These inspections are always free.

The inspector will:

  • Review and record any disaster-related damage to your home, both inside and outside.
  • Review and record any disaster-related damage to furniture, clothing, and appliances (stoves, refrigerators, or washing machines).
  • Review and record homeowner, renter, condo, co-operative, and/or vehicle insurance.
  • Review and record disaster-related damage to your car and other disaster-related documents for medical, dental, and funeral expenses.
  • Ask to see identification and papers proving you own and/or live at the property.

The amount of time spent viewing damages will vary. FEMA inspections are different from other home inspections. They may be very brief and are meant to only record your disaster damages. The inspector will ask you key questions during the inspection. FEMA understands the value of your time and doesn’t want to take any longer than necessary.

The inspector will also ask you to sign a form authorizing FEMA to verify that the information you have given is correct. Inspectors report your disaster-related damages but do not determine your eligibility. FEMA will notify you by mail to let you know if you are eligible for assistance. If you do not agree with FEMA’s decision, you may appeal it with further details about your situation.

When an exterior inspection is scheduled, the applicant or co-applicant will need to meet with an inspector and provide the applicant or co-applicants photo ID. The inspector will not enter the home. The inspector validates damage from the exterior and from questioning the applicant about their damage. FEMA inspectors are trained to recognize the damage caused by a disaster, but they do not decide if you will receive assistance. They observe and record damage that may be eligible within the Individuals and Households Program, which is different from assessments made by insurance adjusters or other disaster assistance programs, such as the U.S. Small Business Administration. If the applicant or co-applicant is unable to meet with an inspector, a third party can be designated in writing. Based on the exterior inspection and existing eligibility criteria, awards may be generated for Rental Assistance, Home Repair, Replacement, and Other Needs Assistance (ONA).

If you reported during the application process that you received minimal damage and can live in your home, you will not automatically be scheduled for a home inspection. Instead, you will receive a letter explaining how to call the FEMA Helpline to request an inspection if you find significant disaster-related damage to your home after you applied.

A FEMA inspector may have an out-of-state phone number. The FEMA inspector may show up on your caller ID as “unavailable.” So answer all calls if you are waiting for a second inspection. If the call goes to voicemail, the inspector will leave a call-back number. At a time you agree to, the inspector will come to your damaged home. You need to show your photo ID to the inspector. FEMA inspectors will not usually go inside. This is because of COVID. Show the inspector photos of the inside damage to your home. Take a video (even on your phone) of the inside damage to show the inspector. Try to use clear pictures and videos. Give the inspector a list of everything that was damaged.

When meeting with an inspector, you can ask for his or her Photo ID badge. The badge has the inspector’s name and photo.

  • Inspectors do not charge you a fee.
  • Inspectors will not ask for your Social Security Number. Inspectors do not ask for your financial information.
  • If you are unsure if someone is trying to steal your information or identity , do not give out any information. Call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720- 5721 or call your local police department.

You can ask for a second FEMA inspection, even if you have already appealed. Write to FEMA to ask for a second inspection as part of your appeal.

  • You can request a second inspection if:
    • FEMA’s award missed damage inside your home or
    • a FEMA inspector did not say you could show them pictures or video on your phone.
  • To request a second inspection, call:
    • 800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585) between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. CST. Explain that the award missed damage or that you were not told you could show photos or video of the damage inside, and that you want a second inspection.

A FEMA Inspector will ask to see identification and papers proving you own and/or live at the property. Any one of the following will be accepted as proof of ownership if it has the applicant’s name and the address of the damaged property on it:

  • Deed of Property
  • Tax payment receipts
  • Mortgage payment book
  • A copy of your insurance policy, with your name on it

To show that you lived in the home or apartment at the time of the disaster, you may submit one of the following (make sure the dates are pre-disaster dates):

  • Driver’s license, with your name and address of the damaged property
  • Official’s statement (such as Postmaster)
  • Federal or State Tax returns
  • Landlord’s statement
  • Voter’s Registration Card
  • Employer’s statement



FEMA Appeals

If you receive a letter stating that you are ineligible for assistance or that your application is incomplete, you can still complete the application or appeal the decision within 60 days of receiving a decision letter.

  • You can submit your appeal and supporting documentation online, in person, by mail or by fax.
  • To be considered, your appeal letter must be postmarked within 60 days of the date of the decision letter.
  • All appeals are reviewed. Decisions usually are made within 30 days of receiving the appeal, however, it may take up to 90 days for a decision.

  • Additional information may be requested from you if FEMA does not have enough information to make a decision.

  • You will be notified in writing of the response to your appeal, either by mail or via the DisasterAssistance.gov account you created when you applied with FEMA.

To learn more about FEMA appeals visit our resources: 

Last Review and Update: Sep 12, 2022
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