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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Select a question from the list below to view the answer. If you are unable to find the answer you're looking for, please Contact Us.

  • Before You Apply

    When can I apply for assistance?

    You can apply for assistance after the president makes a major disaster declaration for your state, and your specific county is named for Individual Assistance. The types of help offered may be different for each disaster.

     

    To see if your disaster has been declared:

     

      1. Visit FEMA’s Disaster Declarations page to see a current list.

        2. When you find your disaster, click the link to go to that page.

          3. Once you’re on the page, click the image called PDF of Map to see the counties included in the declaration.

          What if my county isn't declared?

          So, what can you do if you have damage from a disaster in your state, but your county isn’t named for Individual Assistance in the declaration? You could contact your state emergency management office to see if any other help is being offered.

           

          You could also check back later on your state's site or FEMA's Disaster Declarations page to see if other counties are added. Sometimes other counties are declared later as more damage details are received.

          How do I search for assistance?

          You can search for disaster assistance three ways:

           

          • Click Find Assistance on either the Home page or under the Disaster Assistance tab to answer the questionnaire. Get a personalized list of help you could apply for based on your answers.
          • It’s anonymous, so your answers aren’t being saved and won’t be used by any federal agency.
          • The types of questions will vary, but you don’t have to answer all of them. Most are directly related to disasters, but others use your answers to suggest other types of assistance you may qualify for.
          • Click Assistance by Category under the Disaster Assistance tab. See forms of assistance listed under categories like Housing, Insurance, Legal Counsel, Living Assistance, Social Security, and Disability Assistance.
          • Click Assistance by Federal Agency under the Disaster Assistance tab. See forms of assistance under federal agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

          What should I expect when I answer the questionnaire?

          Answering the questionnaire should only take a few minutes. You don’t have to answer all of the questions, but you’ll get the best results if you do. You’ll get a personalized list of help you could apply for based on your answers.

           

          It’s anonymous, so your answers aren’t being saved and won’t be used by any federal agency.

           

          The types of questions will vary. Most are directly related to disasters, but others use your answers to suggest other types of assistance you may qualify for.

        • When You Apply

          How do I apply for assistance?

          You may apply for assistance two ways:

           

          • Click Find Assistance on the Home page or under the Disaster Assistance tab and answer the anonymous questionnaire. Get a personalized list of help you could apply for based on your answers.

            You can either apply online or learn how to apply for assistance that doesn’t have an online application. Even for programs that aren’t managed by FEMA.

              • Click Apply Online on the Home page to skip the questionnaire. This takes you directly to the Disaster Assistance Center to start an application.

              Do I need an email address to create an account?

              You must have an email address to create an account. This is the only way we can send a PIN to you, and you need the PIN to access your account.

               

              There are many email providers to choose from. If you’re not sure how to get an email account, we suggest you talk with family or friends who could help you.

              How do I create an account?

              To create an online account:

               

              1. Click Check Your Status on the Home page or from the Disaster Assistance tab.
              1. Click Create Account.
              1. Enter your date of birth and Social Security number to identify yourself.
              1. Answer a few questions to prove who you are. The questions are pulled from data in your public record and used to make sure your personal information is secure.

              Note: You’ll have two chances to confirm your identity. If you fail the second time, you’ll get an error that asks you to “please try again later.” If that happens, you can click Disaster Assistance Home and go from step 2 above to try again.

                If you still have problems, please call FEMA’s Internet Help Desk. Their phone number and hours are listed below.

                  When you call you’ll need your:

                    • Registration ID
                    • Social Security number
                    1. After your identity is verified, you’ll be asked to create a user ID and password, and enter an email address.

                    You must have an email address to create an account. This is the only way we can send a PIN to you, and you need the PIN to access your account.

                    1. A temporary PIN will be sent to the email address you entered. You should get your PIN within 24 hours.
                    1. The first time you log in, you’ll be asked to change the temporary PIN to a new personal PIN.

                    You’ll need your:

                      • User ID
                      • Password
                      • Temporary PIN

                       

                      To comply with the Privacy Act, FEMA staff can’t create an online account for you.

                       

                      For help to access your account, call FEMA’s Internet Help Desk: 1-800-745-0243, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

                       

                      For questions about information in your account, call the FEMA Helpline, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week:

                       

                      • 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362)
                      • TTY 1-800-462-7585
                      • 711 or VRS 1-800-621-3362

                      I get an error when I try to set up my account. What should I do?

                      Before you can set up an account, you need to answer a few questions to prove who you are. The questions are pulled from data in your public record and used to make sure your personal information is secure. If you get an error, this means your answers don’t match what’s on record.  

                       

                      For help to access your account, lost or forgotten user ID, password or PIN, call FEMA’s Internet Help Desk: 1-800-745-0243, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

                       

                      For questions about how to apply or help offered by FEMA, call the FEMA Helpline, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week:

                       

                      • 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362)
                      • TTY 1-800-462-7585
                      • 711 or VRS 1-800-621-3362

                      What happens if I apply more than once?

                      If you submit more than one application for a single disaster, it may take longer to process your case. If you have damage caused by two or more disasters, you need to apply separately under each different disaster.

                       

                      Be sure you choose the correct disaster on the first page of each application. Enter only the damage and losses for that specific disaster.

                      Who do I contact for help with the site?

                      If you get an error or need help to access your account, call FEMA’s Internet Help Desk at 1-800-745-0243, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

                       

                      To apply by phone or check the status of your application, call the FEMA Helpline, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week:

                       

                      • 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362)
                      • TTY 1-800-462-7585
                      • 711 or VRS 1-800-621-3362

                       

                      There are also other contact options on the Contact Us page.

                      I don’t understand the application. Can someone explain it to me?

                      For questions about the application or help offered by FEMA, call the FEMA Helpline, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week:

                       

                      • 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362)
                      • TTY 1-800-462-7585
                      • 711 or VRS 1-800-621-3362

                       

                      For help to access your account, lost or forgotten user ID, password or PIN, call FEMA’s Internet Help Desk: 1-800-745-0243, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

                       

                      You can also visit a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). DRCs are set up in convenient areas to make them easier to find. At a DRC, you can meet face to face with FEMA staff to learn how you can get help or ask questions about your application.

                       

                      There are two ways to find a DRC:

                       

                      • Use the DRC Locator to search for centers near you. You’ll also learn more about each DRC, like hours of operation, services offered, and driving directions.
                      • Find DRCs near you by texting DRC and a zip code to 4FEMA (43362). Example: DRC 01234. Using this feature doesn’t add you to any messaging service. Think of it like doing a search on the Internet. (Standard text message rates apply.)

                      How long before my session times out?

                      Your application session will time-out if there’s no activity for 40 minutes. You won’t be able to continue and any data you entered before the time-out won’t be saved.

                       

                      • If you didn’t create a user ID and password yet, you’ll need to start over.
                      • If you already have a user ID and password, just log in again. Any data you entered that wasn’t saved before the time-out will need to be entered again.

                      Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to qualify for assistance?

                      To qualify for assistance from FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP), you or a member of your household must be one of the following:

                       

                      • U.S. citizen
                      • Non-citizen national
                      • Qualified alien

                       

                      A qualified alien is a lawful permanent resident who has a green card. Or someone with legal status due to asylum, refugee, parole (admission into the U.S. for humanitarian reasons), withholding of deportation, or domestic violence.

                       

                      If you’re unsure of your immigration status, talk to an immigration expert to learn if your status falls within the qualified alien category.

                       

                      Qualified Minor Child

                       

                      Adults who don’t qualify under one of the three categories above, including the undocumented, can apply on behalf of a minor child who does qualify and has a Social Security number.

                       

                      FEMA or the Social Security Administration (SSA) can help you get Social Security Numbers for Children. A minor child must live with the parent or guardian applying on their behalf. No questions about citizenship status will be asked.

                       

                      Other Programs

                       

                      Other individual assistance programs are available to anyone regardless of citizenship status. Programs like the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP) and Disaster Legal Services (DLS). And other short-term, non-cash emergency help, like mass shelters.

                       

                      Voluntary Organizations

                       

                      Voluntary organizations also offer help regardless of your citizenship status. Find voluntary organizations in your disaster area:

                       

                      • Call 2-1-1 from any phone to find your local United Way. If 2-1-1 isn’t working for you, visit 211.org to find the 10-digit phone number for the service in your area.

                      Who can I call if I want to apply over the phone?

                      To apply for assistance over the phone, call the FEMA Helpline, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week:

                       

                      • 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362)
                      • TTY 1-800-462-7585
                      • 711 or VRS 1-800-621-3362

                       

                      You may apply directly to other agencies. To see the assistance offered and learn how to apply, click Find Assistance, Assistance by Category or by Assistance by Federal Agency under the Disaster Assistance tab of the Home page.

                    • After You Apply

                      How do I check the status of my application?

                      To check the status of your application you need to create an account first. To create an account:

                       

                      • Click Check Your Status on the Home page or from the Disaster Assistance tab.
                      • Click Create Account.

                       

                      Detailed instructions can be found under How do I create an account?

                       

                      If you already have an account:

                       

                      • Click Check Your Status on the Home page or from the Disaster Assistance tab.
                      • Log in with your user ID, password and PIN to get Your Application Status page.

                       

                      You must have an email address to create the account. This is the only way we can send a PIN to you, and you need the PIN to access your account.

                       

                      If you don’t know if you finished your application, call the FEMA Helpline, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week:

                       

                      • 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362)
                      • TTY 1-800-462-7585
                      • 711 or VRS 1-800-621-3362

                      I get errors when I try to log in. What should I do?

                      For help to access your account, lost or forgotten user ID, password or PIN, call FEMA’s Internet Help Desk: 1-800-745-0243, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

                       

                      For questions about how to apply, information in your account, or help offered by FEMA, call the FEMA Helpline, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week:

                       

                      • 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362)
                      • TTY 1-800-462-7585
                      • 711 or VRS 1-800-621-3362

                      Is there a limit to the benefits I can get?

                      Benefit amounts and time periods vary by agency and form of assistance, based on survivor needs. You can see what’s available by clicking Find Assistance on the Home page or under the Disaster Assistance tab and answering the questionnaire.

                       

                      Limits

                       

                      Some agencies have conditions or limits to the amount of assistance offered.

                       

                      FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP) gives financial help or direct services to people with essential needs that could not be met through other means. The maximum amount offered under IHP is set on an annual basis. Not everyone qualifies for the maximum. 

                       

                      IHP aid is supplemental and meant to help you restore your damaged property to a safe, sanitary and usable condition. It doesn’t take the place of insurance, and isn’t meant to restore the property to its condition before the disaster. 

                       

                      Proper Use

                       

                      All money offered by FEMA is tax-free and must be used as stated in your award letter. This includes renting another place to live, making repairs, or repairing or replacing personal property. Failure to use the money as required may disqualify you from other assistance.

                       

                      Insurance

                       

                      By law, FEMA can’t duplicate benefits for losses covered by your insurance company. They can only help with confirmed losses that weren’t covered. FEMA’s programs aren’t meant to replace insurance. The help offered isn’t as complete as an insurance policy. They can’t cover all disaster-related losses.

                       

                      Assistance Periods

                       

                      Repair and Replacement Assistance is issued as a one‐time payment.

                       

                      Temporary Housing Assistance is issued for an initial period of one, two, or three months. To be considered for further assistance, you must prove that you’ve spent any prior FEMA money as instructed. And show your efforts to get permanent housing. Extended Temporary Housing Assistance is issued for one, two, or three months at a time.

                       

                      The maximum period for IHP assistance is 18 months.

                      Does insurance affect my eligibility?

                      By law, FEMA can’t duplicate benefits for losses covered by your insurance. So you need to file a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible.

                       

                      You have up to 12 months from the date you apply with FEMA to submit your insurance settlement records for review.

                       

                      Delayed Settlement

                       

                      If your settlement has been delayed longer than 30 days from the time you filed your claim, you may write FEMA to explain the reason for the delay. Any funds you get from FEMA would then be considered an advance and must be repaid when you get your settlement.

                       

                      Insufficient Insurance Settlement

                       

                      If you still have unmet disaster-related needs after your settlement comes through, you may write FEMA to describe what you still need. You must also provide the records from your settlement.

                       

                      Exhaustion of Additional Living Expenses (ALE)

                       

                      If you got the maximum ALE settlement from your insurance, but still have a disaster-related temporary housing need, write FEMA to describe the situation. You must also provide proof of exhaustion. 

                       

                      If you have any questions, call the FEMA Helpline, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week:

                       

                      • 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362)
                      • TTY 1-800-462-7585
                      • 711 or VRS 1-800-621-3362

                      If I don’t agree with FEMA’s decision, can I appeal?

                      You do have the right to appeal if you don’t agree with FEMAʹs determination of eligibility or the assistance provided. You must appeal within 60 days of the date on your notification letter.

                       

                      Send appeal letters to:

                       

                      Appeals Officer

                      FEMA ‐ Individuals & Households Program

                      National Processing Service Center

                      P.O. Box 10055

                      Hyattsville, MD 20782‐7055

                       

                      For questions, call the FEMA Helpline, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week:

                       

                      • 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362)
                      • TTY 1-800-462-7585
                      • 711 or VRS 1-800-621-3362

                      Does disaster assistance have to be repaid?

                      Assistance from FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP) doesn’t usually have to be repaid. But if you told FEMA your insurance settlement was delayed, any FEMA money you may have gotten would be considered an advance. This must be repaid when you get your settlement.

                       

                      Since IHP assistance is limited to helping people with essential needs, most disaster help from the federal government is through low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Those must be repaid.

                      How can I report disaster fraud?

                      There are several ways to report disaster fraud:

                       

                      • Call the FEMA Waste, Fraud and Abuse Hotline at 1-800-323-8603. You don't have to give your name.
                      • Fax DHS OIG Hotline at 202-254-4297.
                      • Write to:

                      DHS Office of Inspector General

                      Attn: Office of Investigations Hotline

                      245 Murray Drive SW

                      Building 410/Mail Stop 2600

                      Washington, DC  20528