Financial Assistance After a Disaster

Find out how to get emergency financial help from the government if you've been the victim of a disaster. This can include disaster unemployment assistance, special home loans for disaster victims, and disaster tax relief.

Disaster Relief Assistance

Following a disaster, you may be facing damages to your property. Find out about how to receive financial assistance in the form of loans and tax relief.

Apply for Disaster Recovery Assistance

There are several ways to see if you qualify for financial assistance after a disaster:

Apply for a Disaster Recovery Loan

The Small Business Administration provides low-interest loans to help homeowners and small businesses recover from declared disasters. You can find out if you're eligible and apply online.

Get Tax Relief After a Disaster

Find out if you qualify as an individual or as a business owner for disaster relief from the IRS on your income taxes.

Complain About Disaster Relief Assistance

Learn where to file a complaint about your disaster relief experience or report disaster relief fraud

D-SNAP Helps With Food Costs After a Disaster

If the president authorizes individual disaster assistance for your area, you may qualify for D-SNAP. The Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is also known as food stamps for disaster situations. 

D-SNAP provides one month’s worth of benefits on a debit-type card that you can use at most grocery stores.

  • Once your state sets up a D-SNAP program, you’ll have about a week to apply.

  • If you qualify, you’ll receive benefits within three days.

You may qualify for D-SNAP even if you wouldn't qualify for regular SNAP (food stamps) because:

  • You may be out of work due to the disaster.

  • You may be facing costly home repairs.

If you already receive SNAP, you can apply for D-SNAP if the amount you’d receive is more than you get under SNAP.

As a separate benefit, you may be able to get free meals for your children or your entire family. This is provided through the school meals programs.

Get Emergency Help with Utility Bills

If you can’t afford to heat or cool your home after a disaster, you may qualify for emergency help with energy bills. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) may be able to provide disaster relief funding so you can:

  • Pay to reconnect utilities

  • Pay utility bills

  • Repair or replace your furnace and air conditioners

  • Repair home insulation

  • Buy coats and blankets

  • Buy fans and generators

To get help:

FEMA does not help with emergency electric or utility payments. But local social services agencies or charitable organizations may offer short-term help. Visit 211.org online or call 211 to find local agencies that may be able to help.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance

If you’ve lost your job as a direct result of a major disaster, you may be eligible for disaster unemployment assistance. If you own your own business, you may be eligible too. 

You’re not eligible if you qualify for regular unemployment insurance benefits.

Eligibility, Benefits, and Filing a Claim for Disaster Unemployment

Visit the Disaster Unemployment Assistance web page to:

  • See if you’re eligible for assistance

  • View the benefits you may receive

  • Get information on how to file a claim

The Department of Labor (DOL) provides income and job assistance after a disaster. This includes:

  • Keeping workers safe during cleanup and recovery efforts

  • Ensuring workers get paid properly

For more information, call 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365).

Temporary Jobs Helping Communities Recover From a Disaster

If you want to get paid to help your community after a disaster, consider working for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). They usually have many temporary openings at a disaster site that they try to fill with local residents. The jobs last 120 days and may be extended. Start at the FEMA Temporary Local Hires page for more information.

You can also find jobs at FEMA's Hurricane Workforce page. Many of these are local. But many others are for longer duration and require you to travel to disaster sites in other areas.

Infographic: FEMA Disaster Relief for Your Home

After you apply for disaster relief from FEMA, you'll go through a series of steps to determine your eligibility. Learn how the process works and how to prepare.

What to Expect After You Apply for FEMA Aid. See description below.

  • What to Expect After You Apply for FEMA Aid

    After you've applied for FEMA aid, you may be asked by the government to also apply for a low-interest, long term SBA Disaster Loan. You don't have to be a small business owner to qualify. Completing the SBA loan application is an important step in finding out what aid may be available to you.

    As a homeowner you may borrow up to $200,000 to repair or replace your primary residence and up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property. You are not required to accept the loan to receive FEMA assistance, but it may enable you to be considered for different types of assistance. 

    After You Apply

    An inspector will contact you to schedule a visit.

    Be ready to:

    • Keep your scheduled appointment. Appointments take 30-40 minutes, and you must be present.
    • Contact your insurance agent if you have insurance
    • Prove your identity
    • Show these documents:
      • Photo ID: driver's license or passport
      • Proof of occupancy: lease or utility bill
      • Proof of ownership: deed, title, mortgage payment book, or tax receipts

    During the Inspector's Visit

    Inspectors will:

    • Wear official FEMA ID badges
    • Confirm your disaster registration number
    • Review structural and personal property damage
    • Ask you to sign official documentation
    • Verify ownership and occupancy

    Inspectors won't:

    • Determine eligibility
    • Charge any money
    • Ask for credit card information
    • Take the place of an insurance inspection

    After the Inspector's Visit

    You will be sent a decision letter.

    If you are approved for aid:

    • You'll receive a check or an electronic funds transfer.
    • You'll get a follow-up letter explaining how the funds can be used.

    If you have questions about the letter, you can visit a Disaster Recovery Center in your area or call 800-621-3362 (711/Video Relay Service). For TTY, call 800-462-7585.

Mortgages for Homeowners Rebuilding After a Disaster

If you lost your home due to a major disaster, you may qualify for an insured mortgage. You can use the mortgage to rebuild your home or to buy another one. It must be a single family home and your main residence.

The mortgage insurance for disaster victims program helps homeowners recover by making it easier to get a mortgage. The program is also known as Section 203(h). It’s offered by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

  • You don't have to make a down payment. You do have to pay closing costs and prepaid expenses. Or, the seller can pay them.

  • FHA mortgage insurance is not free. You must pay a premium upfront and regular monthly premiums with your mortgage payment.

  • The government sets limits on the amount that may be insured and on the dollar value of the mortgage itself. See the current FHA mortgage limits. These figures vary by location depending on the cost of living and other factors.

For more information on the no down payment program:

Tax Relief in Disaster Situations

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers special tax help for individuals and businesses recovering from a major disaster or emergency. In a federally-declared disaster area, you can get a faster refund by filing an amended return. You will need to claim the disaster-related losses on your tax return for the previous year.

Get guidance from the IRS on amending a tax return or filing an extension after a disaster

Learn about tax relief for victims of the California wildfires and for hurricanes 

Find more helpful tax tips and resources from the IRS for people affected by natural disasters. 

You can also contact the IRS for more information on tax relief in disaster situations. Wait times to speak with a representative may be long. 

File a Complaint About Disaster Relief Assistance

Several U.S. government programs help people after a disaster or emergency. If you want to file a complaint about a specific program, contact the agency that manages it. 

File a Complaint About FEMA Operations and Employees

Contact FEMA if you have a complaint about its work or employees during or after a disaster. 

Report Disaster Relief Fraud

Scammers and identity thieves often target people affected by a disaster. Most scams involve some aspect of applying for disaster assistance and can include:

  • Fraud, waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations
  • Fraud committed by an individual or entity outside the U.S. 
  • Someone filing a false damage claim

Learn what to do to protect yourself from or report disaster relief fraud.

Get More Help If You Can't Resolve an Issue With a Government Agency

If you're unable to resolve an issue with a federal agency, contact that agency's inspector general. To file a complaint against a state or territory government agency, contact the agency directly.

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Last Updated: August 23, 2019