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Intro: Author Notes - - Chap.1: Your Disaster Recovery - - Chap.2: Eligibility Issues

The New Disaster Relief Handbook

Disaster: Aid: America: Moneybook:) sm) tm


Chapter 1: Your Disaster Recovery

1.1: About The Federal Disaster Relief Effort
1.2: FEMA's Disaster Housing Assistance Program - 1.3: The Individual and Family Grant Program (IFGP) - 1.4: The SBA Disaster Loan Program - 1.5: Federal Flood Insurancea - 1.6: Other Programs and Types of Assistance - 1.7: A Typical Disaster Scenario

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1.1: About The Federal Disaster Relief Effort

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) orchestrates and administers the federal government's various disaster relief efforts following a major earthquake, hurricane, flood, tornado, or other widespread calamity. As it relates to individual citizens and their recovery efforts, FEMA not only provides direct help to those with emergency housing needs, but also functions as a kind of official clearinghouse to coordinate the efforts of other federal, state, and non-profit agencies that are set up to provide essential services to disaster victims. The bulk of the federal aid program for individuals and families consists of four interlinked programs:
  • FEMA's Disaster Housing Assistance (DHA) program; Section 1.2
  • The state-administered, but 75% federally-funded,
    - Individual and Family Grant Program (IFGP); Section 1.3
  • The Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Loan Program; Section1.4
  • The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP); Section 1.5
FEMA also works through other agencies and non-profit organizations to help provide such things as: emergency food and medical aid; crisis counseling; disaster help for farmers and ranchers; and disaster unemployment and re-employment assistance. See Section 1.6 for a partial listing of other available programs. (Click on our Help Center for a list of comparable agency links.)

You do not need to apply to any of these agencies separately. The programs appropriate to your situation are automatically accessed when you call the FEMA Teleregistration Center (at 1-800-462-9029) and apply for assistance. If you had any damage to your home or contents, your primary case file will be immediately assigned to FEMA's own in-house aid program, Disaster Housing Assistance, and a FEMA disaster housing inspector will be promptly dispatched to investigate your claim. (For more detail about the FEMA inspector and what happens at the inspection, see Chapter Seven: Having A Great! Inspection.)

AND, depending on your income level and other factors, you will be:

  • EITHER: (a) mailed an SBA Disaster Loan application packet;
  • OR: (b) routed directly into the Individual and Family Grant Program.
If you are not mailed an SBA application initially you may, of course, call and request one. If you do receive an SBA loan application and are in need of further assistance, be sure to properly complete this application and return it promptly, regardless of your financial situation. If your application is approved you will be eligible to receive a low-interest loan. If your application is declined (or if the approved amount is insufficient for your needs), your case will be sent back to the Individual and Family Grant Program. Note: If you end up taking out an SBA Disaster Loan the amount of any FEMA grant, IFGP aid, or other such financial help already awarded on your behalf will be deducted from the amount of your loan. 

FEMA does not do any of the actual work itself. Neither do any of the other government agencies involved in disaster relief. The only thing these agencies can provide is money. Certainly money is important, but there are other avenues to explore. The first place to start should probably be the American Red Cross. Red Cross volunteers set up shelters and work hard to provide hot nutritious food and other kinds of emergency assistance after every major disaster. The Salvation Army often performs similar functions. Habitat for Humanity and other groups can sometimes afford to provide actual hands-on home repair assistance. You might try contacting your nearest church or synagogue, temple or mosque - most religious organizations in a disaster area organize volunteer crews to help neighborhood victims do minor home repairs, run errands, provide childcare, etc. You don't necessarily have to be a member to participate. Other local charities such as food banks, clinics, and homeless shelters can be relied on in case of emergency. But perhaps the most satisfying way to help effect your own disaster recovery might be to cooperate with other similarly-affected neighbors in cleaning up debris, helping repair each other's homes, cooking meals, etc. It's almost a cliche, but the truth is that if disasters have an upside, it's that they can draw neighbors out and bring communities together like practically nothing else. Get out, and get involved!

Inspector's Notebook: What goes around, comes around.
Many of those above-mentioned religious groups and non-profit organizations are looking for your help, too. And you needn't wait until a disaster strikes to act. Please make a donation of your time or money today.

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1.2: FEMA's Disaster Housing Assistance Program

This is the cornerstone program of the federal disaster relief effort, Uncle Sam's big quick hitter. Even though the Small Business Administration may provide more aid in terms of total dollars, the FEMA Disaster Housing Assistance program serves far more disaster victims than any other government program.

 Disaster Housing Assistance provides three important benefits:

  1. Home repair assistance
    • available to homeowners only
    • provides cash grants for homeowners to make essential minimal repairs to make their home livable again
  2. Temporary housing assistance
    • available to both homeowners and renters
    • provides cash grants to secure temporary rental housing until repairs can be made or access reestablished to your home
  3. Emergency mortgage and rental assistance
    • available to homeowners and renters
    • provides cash grants for mortage or rental assistance "in cases where the disaster has caused extreme economic hardship, resulting in possible eviction or foreclosure"
The maximum combined grant for all three Disaster Housing Assistance functions is $10,000 per applicant, an amount fixed by law, i.e. not adjusted for inflation or deflation.

Note: Excess home repair costs (over the Disaster Housing Assistance program limit of $10,000) can sometimes be recovered through the state-administered Individual and Family Grant Program (see IFGP - next section).

If there was any physical damage to your property, a FEMA inspector will be assigned to contact you at your "damaged dwelling" in order to verify your disaster-related losses for both grant programs, Disaster Housing Assistance and the IFGP.

For more information see:

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1.3: The Individual and Family Grant Program (IFGP)

This combination state and federal program is automatically accessed when you call the Disaster Teleregistration Center. While the relevant state government administers the IFGP, the federal government sets the guidelines, helps fund, and provides most of the "client referrals" to the program (via SBA loan declines and original FEMA referrals). Additionally, the FEMA inspector will routinely check for related IFGP-covered losses at the same time as he performs the basic FEMA housing inspection. The IFGP provides funds to help pay for emergency disaster-related needs and expenses such as: the repair or replacement of damaged furniture and appliances; transportation problems; medical, dental, or funeral expenses; and essential home repairs not covered, or insufficiently covered by FEMA's Disaster Housing Assistance, private insurance, or other aid or personal resources.

Note: the IFGP is a "safety net" program, and is available only when you have needs which cannot be met with loans, FEMA housing assistance, private insurance, or help from any other source. The maximum for an IFGP grant is $13,400 (as of March, 1998). Unlike FEMA's Disaster Housing Assistance program, the IFGP limit is adjusted annually for inflation.

Remember, if you receive a loan application packet from the SBA, you need to complete and return it to them in order to remain eligible for the IFGP program. Be sure to return it promptly as it can take as long as 60 days for the SBA to evaluate your loan application. If you are approved for an SBA loan, you will not be referred back to the IFGP unless the loan amount you qualify for is insufficient to provide for your basic recovery needs.

See Chapter Four for a detailed description of covered IFGP losses.

Inspector's notebook: Charity begins at home.
Recipients please bear in mind that these grant programs are a compassionate and charitable extention of the American taxpayer to those in desperate need. While there is certainly no shame in accepting charity, and nothing wrong with availing yourself of a government disaster aid program, you need to know that: These assistance programs are designed to supplement your own recovery efforts - not replace them. Recipients invariably report that the amount of federal assistance received is insufficient to repair their lives to pre-disaster conditions without access to other financial resources and considerable expenditures of personal effort.

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1.4: The SBA Disaster Loan Program

FEMA says: "The Small Business Administration (SBA) is the primary source of funds to assist in long term recovery efforts for disaster victims. For disaster damage to private property owned by individuals, families and businesses, which is not fully covered by insurance, the basic form of federal assistance is a low-interest loan from the SBA. By making affordable loans (the annual interest rate charge for most SBA disaster loans is currently under 4%), the SBA Disaster Loan program is designed to help disaster victims pay for their repairs while keeping costs to the taxpayers reasonable." If the SBA determines that you are unable to repay a loan, they will automatically refer you to the state-administered Individual and Family Grant Program (IFGP) and provide renewed access for you, if necessary and possible, to other disaster aid programs. Please note: even if you believe you cannot afford a loan, if you were referred to the SBA (i.e. given or mailed a loan application) then you need to complete and return that application to them. . ."Only if the SBA determines that you cannot repay a loan or the amount of the loan is not enough to meet all your needs will you be referred to the IFGP." Loan limits are set to meet the differing needs of:
  • Renters - up to - $40,000 - to:
    • replace personal property such as clothing, furniture, and appliances;
  • Homeowners - up to - $240,000 - to:
    • repair or rebuild a primary residence to its pre-disaster condition;
    • replace personal property such as clothing, furniture, and appliances;
  • Businesses - up to - $1,500,000 - to:
    • repair or replace damaged facilities, inventory, or equipment;
    • help with other disaster-related economic injury problems;
  • Homeowners and Businesses - up to 20% additional for:
    • qualified hazard mitigation measures such as elevating a flooded house, or installing hurricane tiedowns.
Note: If you are approved for a disaster loan, the amount of any IFGP or FEMA grant that you may have already received will be deducted from the amount of your loan.

For more information see Chapter Eight, SBA Disaster Loans.

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1.5: Federal Flood Insurance

The FEMA-administered National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides relatively low-cost insurance coverage for flood damage to properties in identified flood plains (i.e. flood hazard zones A, AE, AH, AO, A99, V, VE, and X, below) in communities certified by FEMA as implementing adopted floodplain management measures. Federal flood insurance can cover damage to both real and personal property.

Note: Regular homeowner's insurance will not cover flood damage. Furthermore, there is a 30-day-waiting period (after purchase) before a flood insurance policy becomes effective!

If you are in a flood and receive federal financial aid (from either the Disaster Housing Assistance program, the IFGP, or the SBA Disaster Loan Program) you will be required to purchase and maintain a flood insurance policy as a condition of assistance in any possible future flood disaster. Moreover, FEMA now requires that mortgage lenders in turn require owners of properties in identified flood plains to purchase and maintain federal flood insurance as a condition of loan approval.

FEMA, in cooperation with the Army Corps of Engineers, is moving along with the process of mapping out the entire United States into three primary flood hazard zones: a 100-year inland flood zone (zones A, AE, AH, AO, and A99); a 100-year coastal flood hazard zone (zones V and VE); and a 500-year or no-flood hazard zone (zone X). NOTE: the terms 100-year and 500 -year refer to the probability of flooding occurring in any given year (1% for zones A and V; 0.2% for zone X). Please note that it is entirely possible for two "one-hundred-year" floods to happen twice in the same area in the same year (or even in the same month!).

Flood insurance costs homeowners an average about $350 a year. The actual cost to you would depend on the height of your home relative to the so-called base flood elevation (the predicted height of a 100-year flood in your area), whether you have a basement or not, and other factors. For more details, contact the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or stop by your friendly local insurance agent's office for a chat. . . . We also hear there's a somewhat spontaneous gathering of agents and other interested parties happening at NFIP.com, a new up-and-coming commercial site. Check it out;)

Inspector's notebook: Flood insurance really works too!
These hot last-minute tips from our unofficial survey of disaster victims and other quiet sources - (1) Adjusters paid commission; (2) Flood insurance agents are really friendly; (3) Disaster Housing Assistance can "pick up the deductible;" (4) the IFG Program can sometimes help with required purchase.

VIEW: (Sample) Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), Scioto County, Ohio

To order a floodplain map for your area contact the NFIP Map Service Center in Jessup, Maryland, or call 1-800-358-9616.

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1.6: Other Programs and Types of Assistance

The following is a brief outline of other assistance programs that might be available for your specific disaster. While Teleregistration will normally refer you to all of the programs appropriate to your situation, to be sure that you are registered for - or to get further information about - any specific program, you may want to contact them directly. (See the inside back cover of this book for a list of these and other important telephone numbers.)
  • Emergency Needs
    • emergency food, clothing, shelter and medical aid.
    • contact your local branch of the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or other voluntary relief organization.
    • emergency food stamp assistance is available from the USDA through the relevant state's department of social services (list) or call 800-221-5689 Eng/Span.
  • Assistance for Farmers, and Other Rural Residents
    • low-interest loans available to family farmers and ranchers for repairs or restoration of disaster-damaged farm properties.
    • available only to owner-occupants of homes in rural areas.
    • contact your county agent, the Farm Service Agency (FSA), or Rural Economic Community Development (USDA).


  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance
    • available to those individuals out of work due to the disaster, including the self-employed, farm owners, and others not covered by regular employment insurance.
    • contact your state Employment Office.
  • Crisis Counseling
    • referral services and counseling for disaster-related emotional and mental health problems.
    • contact your local mental health agency, local non-profit service organization, or local church or synagogue.
  • Veterans Assistance
    • help with death benefits, pensions, home loans, and insurance claims.
    • contact the Veterans Administration (VA) or your state or local veterans affairs group.
  • Tax Assistance
  • Social Security Assistance
    • assistance with Social Security disability and survivor benefits.
    • delivery of disaster-delayed checks may be expedited.
    • contact the Social Security Administration (1-800-772-1213)
    • Note: The acceptance of a disaster grant will not normally affect one's Social Security benefits. ( SSA Handbook. )
  • Disaster Legal Services
    • assistance for individuals and families with disaster-related legal problems; sliding scale payment system.
    • contact the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association (ABA); call your local bar association; or check with FEMA (800-525-0321).
  • Federal Crop Insurance
    • covers 60% of market value crop loss due to natural disaster.
    • supplemental emergency loans for family farmers and ranchers.
    • contact the consolidated Farm Service Agency (FSA) or the USDA.
  • Contractors Licensing
    • information on licensed contractors who can assist owners with repairs and restoration of damaged properties.
    • contact your state building contractors' licensing agency.
  • Insurance Information
    • advice on insurance requirements, claims, and settlements.
    • contact your state Department of Insurance.
FEMA maintains a page on the other available programs as well.

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1.7: A Typical Disaster Scenario

  1. The disaster occurs.

  2. The governor of your state announces a "state of emergency" and makes a formal appeal to the president for federal assistance.

  3. FEMA officials tour the disaster area, make a preliminary assessment of damages and report back to the president.

  4. The president responds with a "Disaster Declaration" for the specific area involved (designated by counties). FEMA establishes a Disaster Field Office (DFO); and may set up one or more Disaster Recovery Centers.
  5. - Elapsed time from date of disaster occurrence 2-3 days (typical).

  6. You apply by phone or in person. An "application taker" goes over the (FEMA) Disaster Assistance application with you, asks you for relevant information and fills in the application for you. You sign the application, if applying in person. If applying by phone, you are mailed a copy of your completed application.
The official deadline for applying for assistance in any given declared disaster is
60 days*
from the date of the declaration declaration.
For local government and non-profits the deadline is 30 days.
*As of 4/98 - always check with the appropriate agency
re: any issue important to you.
  1. Your Disaster Assistance application is reviewed and copies are automatically routed to the other appropriate agencies. Your primary case file is sent on to FEMA's Disaster Housing Assistance program.

  2. If your income is at or above a minimal level and/or you meet other criteria, FEMA will mail an SBA Disaster Loan application packet to you. If you have not been mailed an SBA application you can call and request one. Applicants with certain non-structural IFGP losses are sent forms to complete and return.

  3. FEMA sends a copy of your original Disaster Assistance application to a contracting FEMA housing inspection company. The housing inspection company assigns your application to one of its subcontracting housing inspectors to: locate you, the applicant; verify the information on your application; and investigate your damages and other losses.

  4. The FEMA inspector will schedule an appointment to meet you at your "damaged dwelling," or he may just drive to that address hoping to find you home.

  5. The inspector meets with you, the applicant or another knowledgeable member of the family, verifies your ownership (if you are a homeowner) and your occupancy, performs a brief damage inspection, solicits information on your personal property losses and other covered expenses (for the IFGP), has you sign (a) a Declaration of Applicant and (b) a Privacy Act Statement, thanks you, and leaves. (See Appendix B.1 for copies of these two forms.)

  6. - Elapsed time from date of your disaster registration 1-6 days (typical).

  7. The FEMA inspector completes his inspection report, attaches it to his copies of your "Declaration" and "PA notice," and submits the package back to FEMA for review and analysis. FEMA cybershuffles the information about your personal property and other eligible Chapter Four losses off to the IFGP.

  8. You receive a letter from FEMA, stating whether you qualify for temporary housing (rental) assistance (and why you do not qualify if that is their finding). A check usually accompanies this letter. Homeowners note that no decision has yet been made on repair money - rent checks come first.

  9. - Elapsed time from date of your FEMA inspection 5-10 days (typical).

  10. You complete and return the Disaster Loan application. If you need help with the paperwork, call the SBA or go to one of their free workshops. You complete and return any IFGP request for information form about any claimed non-structural loss or expense (like medical, dental, or funeral).

  11. Homeowners, you receive a letter from FEMA notifying you whether you qualify for repair assistance (and why you do not qualify if that is their finding), and telling you the amount of assistance you qualify for. A check in that amount usually accompanies this letter.

  12. - Elapsed time from date of your FEMA inspection 10-14 days (typical).

  13. If you have been sent an SBA loan application, the IFGP holds back on your case, pending SBA receipt and evaluation of your completed loan application.

  14. If you have not been sent an SBA loan application, then the IFGP moves more quickly to review your damages and resolve your case. You receive a letter from IFGP (usually administered through your state's office of social services) telling you whether you qualify for IFGP assistance (and why you do not qualify if that is their finding), and telling you the amount of IFGP assistance you qualify for. A check for that amount may accompany this letter.

  15. - Elapsed time from date of your FEMA inspection 20-30 days (typical).

  16. Your Disaster Loan application is evaluated by an SBA loan officer. If you do not qualify for a loan you are referred back to the IFGP which already has the information on your eligible IFGP losses from the FEMA inspector's initial damage report. You are mailed a check for the eligible IFGP losses.

  17. - Elapsed time from date of your SBA application 2-20 days (typical).

  18. If you do qualify for a loan, an SBA "loss verifier" will schedule an appointment to assay your damages and work with you or your representative to arrive at an assessment of total losses sustained.

  19. The SBA inspector meets with you, verifies relevant information on your loan application, inspects your damages, considers your contractor repair estimates (if you have any), thanks you and leaves. The inspector completes his report and passes it along to the SBA loan office for review.

  20. An SBA loan officer evaluates your situation and notifies you of the maximum loan amount, terms, and conditions. You are sent loan closing documents to sign and return. If the amount of the loan you qualify for is insufficient to cover all your losses, you will referred back to the IFGP for additional aid.

  21. - Elapsed time from date of your FEMA inspection 35-60 days (typical).
    - Elapsed time from date of your SBA inspection 10-20 days (typical).
    - Elapsed time from date of the disaster occurrence 38-69 days (typical)

### End of Chapter One 

* * * * * * * *
Copyright ©1998-2009
John Porter aka John Lionheart

Beautiful Books
All Rights Reserved.

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