How Can I Use My FEMA Money?

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid

A disaster damaged your home.  You applied for FEMA help.  FEMA will meet with you and inspect your home.  FEMA will determine what type of help you need:  emergency housing, home repairs, medical expenses, etc.  Your FEMA payment will come with a letter explaining what the money is for and how the money can be spent.  You can only spend the money in the way that FEMA says you can use it.

FEMA may give you money for Temporary Housing.  You can use this money to find a safe place to live.  You may stay in a hotel for a few days or you may need to rent an apartment while your home is repaired.  You will need to keep receipts for any payments you make to obtain safe temporary housing.

You may receive money to repair your house.  This money can be used to repair damage from the disaster and to make your home safe, sanitary, and functional.  If your house cannot be repaired, you can use this money to find permanent housing.  You will need to keep receipts for all repairs that were made on the house:  including, but not limited to, supplies, labor, and tools.

If FEMA finds that you have other serious needs, FEMA may give you Other Needs Assistance.  This money can be used to repair or replace a damaged car, furniture, medical bills, or funeral expenses.  The letter from FEMA will explain what you can use the money for.

FEMA recommends that you keep all of your receipts for 3 years from the disaster.  During that time, FEMA does random reviews of cases.  They may have questions about how you spent the money.  You will need to show FEMA that you used the money correctly.  You will need to have receipts to prove to them how the money was spent.  If you do not have receipts or good records, this will be very difficult to do.  If you cannot show FEMA that the money was used correctly, they may find that you need to pay the money back.  Therefore, it is important that you keep all receipts and documents in a safe place for three years after the disaster.

·       Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans. 

·       To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:

o   call 800-532-1275

o   Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161


o   apply online at

·       If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, you can look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website – A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.

Last Review and Update: Sep 29, 2022
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