FEMA's Individuals And Households Program

Authored By: FEMA
Read this in: Spanish / Español


About FEMA's Individuals And Households Program

FEMA's Individuals and Households Program (IHP) provides financial and direct services to eligible individuals and households affected by a disaster, who have uninsured or under-insured necessary expenses and serious needs. IHP assistance is not a substitute for insurance and cannot compensate for all losses caused by a disaster. The assistance is intended to meet your basic needs and supplement disaster recovery efforts.

These general conditions must be met for an applicant to be eligible to receive assistance:

  • The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified non-citizen.
  • FEMA must be able to verify the applicant's identity.
  • The applicant’s insurance, or other forms of disaster assistance received, cannot meet their disaster-caused needs.
  • The applicant’s necessary expenses and serious needs are directly caused by a declared disaster.

The questions below cover a broad range of questions that you may have about FEMA's Individuals and Households Program, offering a starting point for understanding and navigating FEMA disaster assistance benefits. 

What You Need To Know

FEMA provides money for housing assistance and other needs assistance to homeowners and renters. 

Housing Assistance

Assistance may include:

  • Money for temporary housing while you are unable to live in your home, such as rental assistance or reimbursement for hotel costs
  • temporary housing unit, if approved for the disaster, when you are not able to use rental assistance due to a lack of available housing resources
  • Money to help eligible homeowners support the repair or replacement of owner-occupied homes that serve as the household’s primary residence, including privately-owned access routes, such as driveways, roads, or bridges.  Eligible repairs are intended to make the home safe to live in and may not restore the home to its pre-disaster state.
  • Money for specific hazard mitigation measures to help eligible homeowners repair or rebuild stronger, more durable homes. 

Other Needs Assistance

Assistance may include funds for:

  • Damaged essential household items (room furnishings, appliances), clothing, clean-up items (wet/dry vacuum, dehumidifier), tools and specialized clothing required for your job, necessary educational materials (computers, schoolbooks, supplies), and certain accessibility items
  • Damage to an essential vehicle
  • Disaster-related funeral and burial expenses
  • Disaster-related child-care expenses
  • Disaster-related medical and dental expenses, including injury or illness, loss of medical equipment, such as breast-feeding equipment, and disability-related expenses, such as the loss or injury of a service animal
  • Moving and storage expenses, to include the moving and storage of essential household goods to prevent further damage and returning the goods to your primary residence or moving to a new primary residence following disaster damage) 

Before you can receive any assistance, you must meet the following general conditions of eligibility

  1. Citizenship Status: Only United States citizens, non-citizens, nationals, or qualified non-citizens are eligible to receive assistance from FEMA. Learn about citizenship and immigration status requirements for federal public benefits.
  2. Identity Verification: You need to prove your identity with a valid Social Security number. FEMA usually checks your identity using public records when you apply. If FEMA cannot verify your identity this way,  we might ask for more information. Review the types of documents you can provide to verify your identity.
  3. Ownership/Occupancy Verification: For certain types of assistance, FEMA must confirm the disaster-damaged home is your primary residence. For Home Repair or Replacement Assistance, FEMA also needs to confirm you owned the residence at the time of the disaster. FEMA usually verifies this information through an automated public records search when you apply. If FEMA cannot confirm your occupancy or ownership status through the public records search, we might ask you to provide additional documents for verification. Review the types of documents you can provide to verify home occupancy and/or ownership.

  4. Unmet Need After Insurance: Documents can be uploaded directly to your online DisasterAssistance.gov accounts visit a document drop-off center near you.

    1. FEMA cannot provide assistance for disaster needs that have already been met by another source, like insurance or other programs. But, if your insurance or another program does not cover all your disaster-caused needs, you may be eligible for assistance from FEMA.​​​​​

    2. You must tell FEMA about any insurance coverage you have that can help you with your disaster-caused needs when you apply for FEMA assistance.

    3. If you have insurance coverage, you will need to give FEMA proof of the insurance settlement or a letter explaining you were denied coverage before FEMA can determine what assistance you are eligible for.

You may qualify for FEMA disaster assistance even if you have insurance. However, you will need to file a claim with your insurance provider and submit the insurance settlement or denial letter to FEMA to determine your eligibility for some forms of assistance. 

It's important to file a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible after a disaster. FEMA assistance typically requires applicants to provide information on their insurance coverage and settlements. The assistance from FEMA is meant to complement your insurance coverage and can help with unmet needs or expenses that your insurance may not fully cover. However, you must apply for FEMA assistance and comply with their application process, which includes providing documentation about your insurance claims and settlements.

Learn about renters insurance after a disaster here

Learn about homeowners insurance after a disaster here

Critical Needs Assistance (CNA) is a form of Other Needs Assistance that is not available in all disasters. If CNA is requested and authorized for the declared disaster and you meet the eligibility requirements, you may receive a one-time $750 payment per household to help with costs incurred for immediate and critical needs because you were temporarily displaced from your primary residence or needed to shelter somewhere other than your home due to the disaster.

Applicants may be eligible for CNA if they:

  • Complete a FEMA registration;
  • Pass FEMA’s identity verification process;
  • At registration, assert that they have critical needs and request financial assistance for those needs and expenses.
  • Have a pre-disaster primary residence located in an area designated for CNA.

Learn more about Critical Needs Assistance here

How To Apply For Assistance

How To Apply For Assistance

FEMA provides financial assistance and direct services to eligible individuals and households affected by disasters who have uninsured or underinsured necessary expenses and serious needs. The process of applying for FEMA assistance involves several key steps, from initial application to inspection and beyond. You can find a general overview of how the FEMA process works below. 


Steps To Applying For FEMA And How The FEMA Process Works

A disaster occurs, and the President must declare it a federal disaster area to enable FEMA assistance. 

The President can issue different types of declarations, including:

  • Major Disaster Declaration: This allows for a wide range of federal assistance for individuals, businesses, and public infrastructure. It can include direct aid to affected individuals, public repair projects, and financial assistance.
  • Emergency Declaration: This is more limited in scope than a major disaster declaration and is used to address specific needs or to prevent a disaster from worsening.

Once a declaration is made, FEMA coordinates and provides the approved types of federal assistance. This can include deploying personnel and resources, providing financial assistance to individuals and governments, and coordinating with other federal agencies.

It's important to start the recovery process by contacting your insurance company to file a claim for any covered loss. Remember, FEMA assistance is meant to help with essential needs and is not a substitute for insurance coverage. Insurance is typically the primary source of funding for recovery after a disaster. Policies cover a wide range of losses, including damage to homes, personal property, and vehicles, and provide for additional living expenses if you are displaced from your home. 

  • Learn more about renters insurance after a disaster here
  • Learn more about homeowners insurance after a disaster here
  • Learn more about insurance claims after a disaster here

When you apply for FEMA assistance, one of the first questions you'll be asked is about your insurance coverage. FEMA must know if your insurance claim has been settled and if it covers all your needs. 

Promptly filing an insurance claim and following through with the claims process can help avoid delays in receiving potential FEMA assistance. FEMA may wait for your insurance claim to be settled before determining what additional assistance you're eligible for, to ensure no duplication of benefits.

Here are the various ways that you can apply for assistance: 

  • Online Application: You can apply for assistance at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, which is the fastest way to get your application started. The website guides you through each step. 
  • Phone Application: Alternatively, you can call the FEMA helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362) or use the FEMA app. FEMA representatives can guide you through the application process and answer any questions you may have. 
  • In-Person: In some cases, FEMA may set up Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) in affected areas where individuals can go to apply in person. The locations are advertised locally and can also be found on the FEMA website. Visit a DRC with your documentation and speak with a FEMA representative who can assist with your application. 

When you apply, you'll need to provide information such as your social security number, contact information, insurance coverage, income, banking information, and a description of your losses. Enter as much detail as you can. You can go back to your account later to enter anything you don't have handy when you first apply. You can make changes if you need to. Remember to keep your Application ID since you'll need it anytime you talk with FEMA. 

Ensuring your application for FEMA assistance is complete and accurate is crucial for a smooth process, but sometimes FEMA might need more information beyond what's provided in your initial application to determine your eligibility. Here's a deeper look into what happens if further information or a home inspection is required, along with the importance of maintaining updated contact information and regularly checking your account:

  • Additional Information Requests 
    • FEMA may request more information to clarify certain aspects of your application, verify your identity, confirm occupancy or ownership for damaged property, or assess the extent of disaster-related damages. 
  • Home Inspections
    • If your application includes requests for assistance to repair your home or replace personal property, FEMA may need to inspect your home to verify the damages. This is a common step for applications involving physical damage to your residence.

FEMA will send email notifications when there are messages in your account, such as updates to your application status or requests for additional information. Ensure FEMA's email addresses are not marked as spam so you don't miss these notifications.

You can check the status of your application, review messages from FEMA, and update your information by logging into your DisasterAssistance.gov account at any time. This can give you real-time insights into where your application stands in the process.

After you apply, a FEMA inspector may contact you to arrange an inspection if your home has been damaged. The purpose of the inspection is to verify your losses. Inspections may be conducted virtually or in person, depending on circumstances such as the nature of the disaster or public health guidelines.

  • Virtual Inspections: Depending on the situation (such as during the COVID-19 pandemic), FEMA may conduct virtual inspections via phone or video call.
  • In-Person Inspections: For a traditional in-person inspection, the inspector will visit your property to assess the damage. You must show proof of ownership and occupancy.

Have documents ready that prove ownership and occupancy of the damaged property, and prepare a list of damages or lost items. For virtual inspections, you may need to provide photos or video evidence of the damages.

After a disaster, once the inspection of your property has been completed—either virtually or in-person—FEMA proceeds to review your case based on the inspector's report and the information you provided in your application. This step is critical in determining your eligibility for various types of assistance that FEMA offers to help recover from the disaster. The review process includes several key components:

  • Types of Assistance: FEMA provides several types of assistance, which may include but are not limited to:

    • Temporary Housing Assistance: Financial assistance for temporary accommodations if your home is uninhabitable. This can include reimbursement for hotel stays, rental assistance for a temporary residence, or even temporary housing units provided by FEMA in some cases.

    • Home Repair and Home Replacement: Grants to help homeowners repair damage from a disaster that is not covered by insurance. This is to make the home safe, sanitary, and functional. In more severe cases, if a home is destroyed, FEMA might offer assistance in replacing the home.

    • Other Needs Assistance (ONA): Financial assistance for other disaster-related expenses, such as medical and dental expenses, personal property loss, and transportation repairs. This type of assistance can also cover childcare expenses, moving and storage, and other necessary expenses or serious needs caused by the disaster.

  • Review Process: The review process involves verifying your eligibility based on FEMA's criteria, which includes:

    • Insurance Coverage: Evaluating insurance claims and coverage, as FEMA assistance cannot duplicate benefits. If insurance covers all your needs, you may not be eligible for FEMA assistance. If your insurance coverage is insufficient, FEMA may provide assistance to cover the gaps.

    • Verification of Losses: The inspector's report is used to verify the extent and cause of damage to determine eligibility for repair or replacement grants.

    • Eligibility Requirements: Meeting specific eligibility criteria such as citizenship or qualifying alien status, ownership, and occupancy verification, and the property being in a disaster-declared area.

    • Needs Assessment: Evaluating the immediate needs you may have, such as housing, based on the damage to your residence and your current living situation.

Once FEMA completes the review, you will receive a determination letter:

  • Approval: If approved, the letter will specify the amount and types of assistance you will receive. You might receive multiple types of assistance depending on your needs. If you're approved for assistance, you'll receive funds via direct deposit or by a check in the mail.
  • Denial: If you're not eligible for assistance or if certain types of assistance are denied, the letter will explain the reasons for the decision. It will also provide information on how to appeal the decision if you believe it was made in error. 

Carefully review the determination letter from FEMA. It explains why your application was denied or why you received a different amount of assistance than expected. Understanding the reasons for FEMA's decision is crucial in preparing your appeal. If you disagree with FEMA's decision regarding your assistance, you have the right to appeal. You have 60 days from the date of the determination letter to submit your appeal to FEMA. Learn more about how you can appeal FEMA's decision here

Other Issues To Consider

Other Issues To Consider

Below you can find some other questions and legal issues to consider related to FEMA's Individuals and Households Program. 

Other Issues To Consider

FEMA collaborates with other agencies, including the SBA, to support disaster survivors. The SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, small businesses, and most private nonprofits in declared major disaster areas. Importantly, you do not need to own a business to apply for SBA assistance.

Learn more about SBA loans by clicking here

Here are some key points about how SBA disaster loans work with FEMA disaster assistance

  1. Application Process:

    • Post-March 22, 2024 Disasters: For disasters declared on or after March 22, 2024, individuals can choose to complete an SBA disaster loan application without it impacting their eligibility for FEMA assistance.
    • Pre-March 22, 2024 Disasters: For disasters declared before this date, those referred to the SBA must complete an SBA disaster loan application to be eligible for certain types of FEMA assistance, including Personal Property Assistance, Transportation Assistance, and/or Group Flood Insurance Policy (GFIP).
  2. Loan Approval and Acceptance: Approval for a loan does not obligate the applicant to accept it. However, funds from SBA must be repaid over time. It's important to note that for pre-March 22, 2024 disasters, if you're approved for a loan but do not accept it, you will not be referred back to FEMA for additional assistance.

  3. Eligibility for FEMA without SBA Loan: Even if individuals don't apply for an SBA loan, FEMA may still provide assistance for home repair or replacement, rental assistance, medical and dental expenses, child care, funeral costs, and other serious needs.

If you're denied FEMA Individual and Households Assistance after a disaster, it's important not to lose hope. There are several steps you can take and options to consider:

  1. Understand the Reason for Denial: The first step is to understand why your application was denied. FEMA will provide a letter explaining the reason for the denial. Common reasons include the inability to prove occupancy or ownership, insufficient damage to the primary residence, or that your insurance covers the damages.

  2. File an Appeal: If you believe the decision was made in error, or if you have additional information that wasn't included in your initial application, you can file an appeal. Appeals must be in writing and filed within 60 days of receiving the denial letter. In your appeal, include any additional documentation that supports your case, such as repair estimates, denial of insurance claims, proof of residence, or any other relevant information. Learn more about how you can appeal FEMA's decision here

  3. Gather Documentation: Before submitting your appeal, gather all necessary documentation that supports your case. This can include photographs of the damage, receipts for repairs or temporary housing, insurance claim denials, proof of residence or ownership, and any other documentation that can substantiate your claim.

  4. Seek Legal Advice: Some legal aid organizations provide free legal assistance to disaster survivors. They can help you understand your rights, the appeal process, and assist in gathering the necessary documentation.

  5. Check for Other Assistance Programs: Even if you're denied FEMA assistance, other federal, state, and local assistance programs may be available. This can include programs for temporary housing, food assistance, counseling services, and more. Learn more about disaster assistance by clicking here

  6. Use Community Resources: Local community organizations, non-profits, and religious groups often offer assistance to disaster survivors. This can range from temporary housing and food assistance to help with repairs and rebuilding efforts.

  7. Stay Informed: Keep in contact with local disaster recovery centers and stay informed about any additional assistance programs or policy changes that may affect your eligibility for assistance in the future.

Last Review and Update: Mar 25, 2024
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