When a disaster or emergency is extremely widespread and damaging, the President may declare the affected area a disaster or emergency. Immediately after a Presidential declaration, federal disaster relief becomes available to communities, businesses, and individuals.

Who Provides Federal Disaster Relief?

Primarily, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) responds to, plans for, and recovers from disasters. Some FEMA activities that can benefit businesses and individuals include teaching people how to get through a disaster and making disaster assistance available to businesses and individuals.

What Is the Individual Assistance Program?

FEMA offers victims of a federal disaster or emergency the Individual Assistance Program. The Individual Assistance Program provides cash and kind to individuals and families. This includes:

  • Emergency food and shelter
  • Temporary housing
  • Rental assistance
  • Housing repair assistance
  • Low interest loans and grants
  • Crisis counseling

How Do I Apply for Assistance?

If you are in federal disaster area you must contact FEMA for assistance. You will provide your Social Security number, losses, financial information and directions to the damaged area. Within a few days an inspector will set up an appointment to examine your area. If the inspector determines you are eligible for federal assistance you will be sent a housing assistance check and a packet so you may apply for additional assistance.

What Should I Do to Get as Much Assistance as Possible?

When seeking financial assistance from insurance companies or government agencies, you will need to provide as much information as possible. Be sure you take photos and keep every receipt. Your payment will have instructions detailing what you can use the money for and you may be subject to an audit.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Recovering from a federal emergency or disaster takes a lot of time and energy. When rebuilding your life you will be in contact with insurance companies, contractors, and federal agencies such as FEMA. A lawyer experienced in federal programs and insurance law can ensure you receive the funds and benefits you are entitled to. You may wish to contact a government lawyer for advice.