Get Public Assistance for the U.S. Individuals under Major Disaster Declarations

During major disasters, a state can seek federal assistance if the damage suffered by the public meets a certain federal threshold. During such a declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) coordinates the federal emergency assistance.

Currently, FEMA operates as part of the Emergency Preparedness and Response (E.P.R.) Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security. And the requests are made by the Governor of the affected State or U.S. territory.

Get Public Assistance for the U.S. Individuals under Major Disaster Declarations

Governor Request to the President

The first step is to get a Presidential disaster declaration. A Governor of the affected State makes the request through the FEMA/EPR office. The request is made based on the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5206.

After that, FEMA can deliver the type and scope of assistance defined by the presidential declaration. The scope and type of assistance are determined by the findings of the preliminary damage assessment (P.D.A.) carried out by State and Federal officials.

If the P.D.A. findings establish that the disaster’s severity and magnitude exceed the capabilities of the State and local governments to handle, then the President will direct FEMA to intervene.

However, the Governor doesn’t have to wait for the findings if an obvious catastrophic event has occurred. Moreover, the Governor must execute the State’s emergency plan as part of the request.

That’s because the request has to include the steps and resources the State has taken and committed to managing the disaster, as per the Stafford Act. The President uses the P.D.A. findings to determine FEMA/EPR assistance category to offer the State.

For individuals and households assistance, their help falls under the Individuals and Households Program (I.H.P.) category. Apart from I.H.P., the FEMA/EPR can also offer Public Assistance or/and Hazard Mitigation Assistance.

Individual and Household Program Assistance

The Federal government gives this assistance to U.S. individuals and U.S. households during a disaster. It is different from Public Assistance because it does not include aid to public or non-profit entities.

I.H.P. provides individuals and households with money and emergency services to people that have suffered property damage or destruction. However, it does not cover losses that are covered by insurance.

Moreover, those affected in the declared area must register for assistance and eligibility. Persons can use the toll-free number 1-800-621-FEMA to call and register for assistance. Those with hearing and speech impairment can use TTY 1-800-462-7585.

Individuals and households that suffer disaster-related losses can seek financial assistance from the I.H.P. - Other Needs Assistance (ONA). ONA targets those that do not qualify for a Small Business Administration (S.B.A.) low-interest loan.

Types of I.H.P. Assistance Provided for U.S. Individuals

  • Temporary Housing
  • Repair
  • Replacement
  • Permanent Housing Construction
  • Other Needs Assistance (ONA)
  • B.A. Disaster Loans
  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance
  • Special Tax Considerations
  • Crisis Counseling

Eligibility for I.H.P.

Beneficiaries of I.H.P. and IHP-ONA must be U.S. individuals residing in the affected areas at the time of the disaster. Moreover, individuals wishing to get assistance must register with the relevant office. Overall, different states have different qualifying requirements for receiving assistance.

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