Programs and Services of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Authored By: Federal Emergency Management Agency


What kind of benefits does FEMA provide?

  • FEMA's main program for people suffering damage or displacement from a disaster is the Individual and Household Program (IHP).
  • The two parts to IHP are "Housing Assistance" and "Other Needs Assistance."
    • Housing Assistance gives money for homeowners to repair or replace homes. It also pays rent for people unable to use their homes.
    • Other Needs Assistance can pay for many other needs. These include medical, dental, transportation, moving and storage costs.

How do I apply?

  • You can apply online at Click on Disaster Survivor Assistance. Then click on Apply for Assistance. Due to high call volume, FEMA urges victims to register online.
  • You can call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362. The phones should be open for registration from 6:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., 7 days a week.
  • You can go to a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) to receive help with applying.  To find a DRC, use the following link:
  • If you are hearing-impaired, you can call 1-800-462-7585.
  • If you have commercial property, FEMA asks you to wait a few days to call.
  • If you are a homeowner with minor losses, FEMA asks you to wait a few days to call.
  • Be ready to give your Social Security number, describe your losses, give financial information and give directions to the damaged property.

Am I eligible for Housing Assistance?

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or a "qualified alien."
  • A "qualified alien" is anyone who has been granted legal permanent residence ("green card"), refugee or asylee status, withholding of deportation, conditional entry, parole into the U. S. for at least 1 year; or a Cuban-Haitian Entrant; or a battered spouse or child(ren) with a pending or approved spousal petition or petition for relief.
  • You must show that the disaster destroyed your home or made it unlivable, or that you cannot get to your home because of the disaster.
  • You must own no other house in which you could live.
  • If you have insurance, you must show that you have unsuccessfully tried to get insurance benefits, or that you don't have enough insurance to cover your damages.
  • You must also agree to repay FEMA to the extent that you later get insurance benefits.

What kind of Housing Assistance help can I get?

  • You can get money to cover the cost to rent alternate housing for up to 2 months, but not the money for a security deposit or utilities. If you are still not able to return to your home after 2 months, you can be recertified and FEMA can provide money to cover the cost to rent alternate housing for an additional 3 months. Maximum rental assistance is 18 months. The amount of rental assistance will vary from county to county based on the counties average fair rental value; or
  • You can get to live temporarily rent-free in federal housing. This is only for up to 18 months, but FEMA can extend it; or
  • You can get money for home repairs; or
  • You can get money toward a new home.
  • FEMA expects you to accept the first housing assistance it offers.
  • If you turn down FEMA's offer without a good reason, you can lose your right to housing assistance.
  • Low-income Iowans affected by a disaster may also be eligible for an Iowa Individual Disaster Reimbursement Grant of up to $5,000 for home repairs or other eligible expenses. To apply contact Iowa Department of Human Services at 1-877-937-3363 or your local Community Action Center.

How much help can I get?

  • FEMA establishes a maximum grant amount that changes every year. If this is not enough to pay for emergency repairs to your home, you cannot get any additional money for the repairs from FEMA.
  • You can file for a Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan for more extensive repairs.
  • The Small Business Administration provides low-interest long term disaster loans for individuals to repair/replace real and personal property for non-farm businesses. If SBA determines that an applicant is ineligible for an SBA loan or if the loan amount is insufficient, SBA refers the applicant to FEMA for additional consideration. Borrowers are required to maintain appropriate hazard and flood insurance, where required. SBA can only approve a loan to an applicant with a reasonable ability to repay the loan.

If I get a mobile home from FEMA, can they take it away?

  • Yes. After 18 months, you lose the mobile home unless FEMA extends the time period.
  • If other adequate housing becomes available, FEMA can make you leave the mobile home.
  • If FEMA finds you lied or committed fraud, it can take away your mobile home.
  • You can also lose the mobile home if you don't show FEMA that you are working on a plan for permanent housing.

Do I have a right to fight the loss of the mobile home?

  • FEMA has to give you 15 days notice.
  • The notice has to give its reason for wanting you out.
  • The notice has to explain the appeal process.

What if I had left my husband, but he filed for Housing Assistance including me?

  • FEMA lets one person tell what people lived in the home before the disaster.
  • It usually gives one temporary housing residence for all those people.
  • You should tell FEMA that your husband lied, and that you and your children are a separate household. Then, you should get your own temporary housing.
  • If FEMA does not do this, you can point out that a single household can get a second temporary housing residence if the nature of the household requires it. Protection from domestic violence should require it.

Am I eligible for Financial Assistance to Address Other Needs?

  • You must have disaster-related necessary expenses or serious needs.
  • You cannot have adequate assistance from other sources, such as insurance and disaster loans.
  • You have to apply for a Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan. You can get help for Other Needs if SBA denies you, or if it doesn't lend you enough money.
  • When you apply for an SBA loan, be careful not to overstate your ability to pay. You do not want to end up burdened by a loan you can't afford. You usually get more help from FEMA if you can't get a loan.

What kind of help can I get under the Other Needs program?

  • Other Needs can cover the following kinds of serious needs for essential items or services:
    • Medical and dental expenses relating to the disaster;
    • Clothing, household items, furnishings;
    • Appliances, tools and equipment required as a condition of employment;
    • Computers, school books, uniforms and other educational materials;
    • Replacement or repair of your car;
    • Public transportation;
    • Moving and storage;
    • Cleaning or sanitizing personal property;
    • Funeral expenses.

Will Other Needs benefits affect my eligibility for Medicaid, Food Stamps or other public benefits?

  • No. Other Needs benefits do not count either as income or resources for any income-tested programs supported by the federal government.

If I owe a creditor money, can the creditor take my Other Needs benefits?

  • No. Other Needs benefits are totally exempt under federal law from garnishment.

Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to get Other Needs benefits?

  • No. Most legal residents, refugees, asylees, parolees and Cuban or Haitian entrants can get Other Needs money.

How much can I get for Other Needs?

  • It depends on how much you got in Housing Assistance.
  • The total of all the help your household can get from FEMA cannot be more than the maximum grant amount for the year the disaster took place. This includes Housing Assistance and Other Needs.

Am I eligible for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans?

  • To qualify for a loan from SBA, you must show that the disaster damaged your home or business.
  • You must also show that you have the ability to repay the loan.

What kind of help can I get from the SBA loan program?

  • SBA provides low interest loans for repairs.

How can I get in touch with SBA for questions that I have?

  • You can call 1-800-827-5722.

What if I don't like what FEMA offers me?

  • FEMA expects you to accept the assistance it offers.
  • If you have a good reason to turn FEMA down, explain the reason fully.
  • If you turn down FEMA's offer without a good reason, you can end up with nothing.
  • You have the right to appeal.

What if FEMA denies me?

  • You have the right to appeal. Your denial notice tells you how to appeal. Appeals must be postmarked or received by FEMA within 60 days of the date of the decision. You can mail your appeal t

FEMA - Individuals and Household Program
National Processing Service Center
P.O. Box 10055
Hyattsville, MD 20782-7055

or you can fax you appeal letter to
(800) 827-8112, Attention: FEMA - Individuals and Household Program.

Can I get additional disaster relief information from FEMA?


·       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.

Iowa Legal Aid Disaster Relief App:

Last Review and Update: Jun 08, 2020

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