The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It coordinates federal, state, and local aid and response initiatives to alleviate the suffering and damage caused by natural disasters. For legal aid purposes, it is important to understand FEMA’s role in providing financial assistance to disaster survivors (individuals and households) and to learn how to navigate the application process.
Some key points of the FEMA programs and processes are provided below.
These are some of the key steps in the process:
- The applicant must apply for FEMA assistance within 60 days of the Presidentially disaster declaration. This application can be completed online, through FEMA’s mobile app, by phone using a toll-free hotline, or in person at a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) or a Mobile Registration Intake Center (MRIC).
- FEMA will usually contact the applicant within 14 days to schedule an inspection of the home. The FEMA housing inspectors do not determine eligibility; they only report the damage.
- FEMA sends its eligibility determination by mail. This determination usually is made within 10 days of the inspection. Although, delays can be expected depending on the severity of the storm and the number of applications submitted.
- If FEMA approves the application, the funds are deposited into the applicant’s account or mailed in the form of a check within a few days. The determination letter explains what the applicant may use the money for.