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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. Read what's included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

CARES Act Provides Relief for Individuals and Businesses

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020. It offers help in many forms for individuals and businesses affected by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. 

Help for Individuals: Stimulus Payments

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will be issuing one-time payments for many individuals starting in late April 2020.

  • Individuals, including Social Security recipients, earning $75,000 or less will receive a $1,200 payment.

  • Married couples filing joint returns with incomes of $150,000 or less will receive a $2,400 payment. 

  • People with incomes higher than those levels will receive partial payments. Individuals earning more than $99,000 and couples earning more than $198,000 will not receive any payment, unless they have children.

  • Parents of qualifying children will get a one-time payment of $500 per child.

People with direct deposit will get their payments weeks before those receiving checks. If the IRS doesn't have your direct deposit information, don't worry. You'll be able to provide it through a new IRS website coming soon.

Low-income taxpayers and some others who don’t normally file will have to submit a simple tax return to get their payment. If you are in this category, check back frequently at irs.gov/coronavirus. Further instructions will be posted soon.

Help for Individuals: Expansion of Unemployment Benefits

The CARES Act expands unemployment benefits in several ways. It authorizes:

  • Self-employed workers and gig workers to receive unemployment benefits

  • All unemployed workers to receive an extra $600 a week for up to six months

  • Unemployed workers to get an extra 13 weeks of benefits beyond the number a state currently provides

Help for Businesses: Small Business Administration Loans

The CARES Act creates or boosts programs designed to keep small businesses afloat.  

The Paycheck Protection Program is for:

  • Businesses with less than 500 employees

  • Private non-profit organizations

  • Veterans organizations

The program provides loans for payroll and certain other expenses. 

Businesses that pay all employees for eight weeks will not have to repay loans used for:

  • Payroll

  • Rent

  • Mortgage interest

  • Utilities

The Economic Injury Disaster Advance Loan provides a loan advance for businesses losing money due to the coronavirus. 

  • Advances are up to $10,000.

  • Money will be available within three days of a successful application.

Apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan.

Help for Businesses: Payroll Tax Credit for Businesses of All Sizes

The Employee Retention Credit allows businesses of all sizes to receive a tax credit for keeping employees on their payroll. It will refund 50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid by businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses that take small business loans are not eligible.  

Federal Student Loan Relief

Federal student loan payments are suspended from March 13 to September 30, 2020. Your payments will automatically stop during this period.

Home Loan Relief: Federally-Backed Mortgages

Single family homeowners with federally-backed mortgages get two types of financial help.

Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium

An eviction and foreclosure moratorium went into effect on March 18 for 60 days. During that time, homeowners:

  • Will not be charged late fees

  • Will not be evicted from their homes

Lenders:

  • Will not initiate foreclosure proceedings

  • Will suspend foreclosure proceedings already in process

Mortgage Forbearance

Federally-backed home loans can get six months of mortgage help. Federal Housing Administration (FHA) reverse mortgages are eligible too.

If you're having trouble making payments because of the coronavirus pandemic, your loan servicer must:

  • Either defer or reduce your payments for six months. You must contact your loan servicer to make arrangements.

  • Give you another six months of mortgage relief at your request

Renter Relief: Multi-Family Homes With Federally-Backed Mortgages

If you live in an apartment building with a federally-backed mortgage, you're safe from eviction till late July.

  • You're covered by a 120-day eviction moratorium for not paying rent. The moratorium started March 27.

  • You can’t be charged late fees or penalties for not paying rent during this time.

Credit Report Protection

Your credit report won’t be hurt if your lender agrees to suspend or reduce your payments due to the pandemic. Lenders must report to credit bureaus that consumers are current on their loans..

Coronavirus Financial Help for Small Businesses

If your business has been hurt by the coronavirus (COVID-19), you may be able to get a loan through the Small Business Administration. SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to help small businesses recover from declared disasters.

Visit SBA’s Disaster Loan Assistance page to: 

  • Find out if your area is eligible for assistance 

  • Apply online for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan

  • Check the status of your application

Find more coronavirus-related small business guidance from SBA and the CDC. 

Paid Leave for Many Workers Due to Coronavirus

If you work for a business with less than 500 employees, you may be eligible for paid sick or family leave due to impacts from the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting April 1 and through December 31, 2020, you may get:

  • Up to two weeks of paid sick leave if you or a family member is quarantined or has symptoms of COVID-19

  • Up to an extra 10 weeks of paid family and medical leave if your child's school or daycare provider is closed or unavailable

Businesses will receive funds from the government to cover costs of providing leave. If you own a small business with less than 50 workers, you may not have to provide leave for childcare purposes.

Find information for employees and employers about paid leave due to the coronavirus emergency.

Food Programs Ease Rules for Coronavirus Pandemic

You may now have an easier time getting food through government meal programs. During the coronavirus emergency:

  • Food stamp (SNAP) recipients may receive supplemental funding

  • Parents can pick up school meals for their kids to eat at home

  • People can enroll in food programs remotely rather than in person. This applies to programs for pregnant women, families, seniors, and people with disabilities.

Read about these and other government meal program adjustments during the coronavirus pandemic. To enroll or get other information:

For more information on school meals, check your child's school or school district website.

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.

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

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.

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.

Get Your Refund Faster

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

Tax Relief for Wildfires and Hurricanes

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

Tax Relief for Earthquakes

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: March 20, 2020

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