FEMA Can Help in Wake of Disaster
For most of us, the power of storms and the drama of people caught in their
path are stories played out on television. For others, unfortunately, a
tornado, hurricane or flood is a harsh reality when it comes barreling
through your home. For citizens trying to overcome this personal tragedy,
it's comforting to know that federal disaster aid may be available.
Federal disaster aid from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) becomes
available when the state declares an emergency, followed by a presidential
declaration of a disaster. The programs cover homeowners and businesses to
the extent that private insurance does not, or when private insurance fails
to provide benefits to completely cover losses.
Minimal Repair Program. Don't expect this grant to completely cover your home
repair costs. It's called minimal for a reason--the grant covers only those
structural repairs necessary to make your home habitable as quickly as
possible. But that's still a substantial shot-in-the arm.
Temporary Housing. Temporary housing grants are designed to help residents
displaced by a disaster pay temporary rent costs. The amount is based on what
apartments or homes rent for in the area affected by the disaster. It
includes one month's rent for displaced renters and up to three months' rent
for displaced homeowners. FEMA provides additional assistance on a
Low-Interest Home and Business Loans. The Small Business Administration (SBA)
makes home loans to cover disaster damage to primary residences. The costs
of the loan program are moderate and based on a means test--rates depend on
the borrower's ability to pay. Other loans cover personal property losses,
including losses suffered by renters. Businesses may qualify for FEMA
business loans to cover property losses and cash-flow problems resulting from
the disaster. Loans from the Farm Services Agency are available to cover
production and property losses for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture
operators. These farm loans do not, however, cover losses to primary
Individual and Family Grants. Assistance is available to cover medical,
funeral, transportation and personal property losses. This program is funded
by FEMA but administered by the state government.
Disaster Unemployment Benefits. Workers who suffer a temporary job loss, or
take a reduction in hours due to a disaster, may qualify for unemployment
benefits based on their past income. The payments are designed for workers
who do not otherwise qualify for regular state unemployment benefits, and are
paid for up to 26 weeks.
For more information, visit the FEMA Web site at