insurance

How to get federal disaster assistance

Additional forms of direct federal assistance include crisis counseling; disaster unemployment assistance; legal services, including assistance with insurance claims; and special tax consideration that enables you to deduct a casualty loss that exceeds 10 percent of your adjusted gross income on your federal tax return for the current or previous tax year.

What's next

Once you've applied for federal disaster assistance, you can check the status of your application within 24 hours via the same method you applied. FEMA will also mail you a copy of your application along with a detailed guide that walks you through the assistance process.

An inspector working with FEMA will contact you 10 to 14 days after your application to schedule a time to visit your home and inspect the disaster-related damage. There is no charge for this inspection, but you must be present during the inspection and prepared to offer the inspector proof of ownership and occupancy.

  • Proof of ownership includes any of the following: deed, tax records, mortgage payment book or a homeowners insurance policy showing you as the owner. Lacking these, the inspector may be able to obtain proof from a county property tax website.
  • Proof of occupancy includes any of the following: driver's license with address, a recent utility bill in your name or any first-class government mail sent to you at your address during the past three months.

Do you qualify?

Inspectors submit their report to FEMA but play no role in determining your eligibility for assistance.

It will take FEMA about 10 days to review your inspection. If you qualify for a grant, FEMA will send you a check by mail with a letter explaining how you are to use the money (you'll receive this via direct deposit if you supplied your bank routing number on your application).

The grant is tax-free and does not require repayment. However, you cannot give it to someone else and you must use it as specified by FEMA. If you don't, you won't be granted any additional assistance and you may be asked to pay it back.

If you do not qualify for a grant, you'll receive a letter explaining why. You have the right to appeal. Appeals must be written and mailed within 60 days of receiving FEMA's decision.

In a third scenario, FEMA may send you an application to apply for a loan through the Small Business Administration. You must complete and submit the SBA loan application to be considered for a loan as well as certain types of grant assistance. If the SBA then determines that you do not qualify for a loan, it will automatically refer you back to FEMA for grant assistance.

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