Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Got questions? This page offers a list of frequently asked questions where you may be able to find answers. Just click on a question to see the answer. If you can’t find the answer you're looking for, please Contact Us.

Before You Apply

When can I apply for assistance?

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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?

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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 agency or office to see if any other help is being offered.

You could also come back later to check Address Look-up from our Home page, or review your state site or FEMA's Disaster Declarations page. You may see the county declared later.

 

How do I search for assistance?

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You can search for disaster assistance in two ways:

  1. Click Find Assistance on either the Home page or under the Get 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.
  2. Click Forms of Assistance under the Get Assistance tab. You can choose to find assistance by Category Type (like Housing, Insurance, etc.) or by Federal Agency (like U.S. Small Business Administration). The programs are the same in both lists, just organized differently.

 

What should I expect when I answer the questionnaire?

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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

What do I need to know about the information I submit?

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It’s very important for you to be as honest and accurate as possible with the information you submit on your application. Gather together as much as you can to have it ready when you apply.

If you’re unsure about something, please don’t guess or enter information you know is incorrect. If you don’t think you have all of the information you need, it’s best not to complete your application until you do. If you need help, you can call the FEMA Helpline or go to a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) to ask questions.

Please read the application questions and your information carefully as you proceed. Once you click “Submit,” you can only make limited changes online. If you need to change application information after you submit it, you’ll need to call the FEMA Helpline.

It’s very important to know that your application basically becomes a legal document. FEMA may use external sources to verify the accuracy of the information you enter. If you intentionally make false statements or hide information to try to get assistance, it’s a violation of federal and state laws. This can carry severe criminal and civil penalties. Penalties may include a fine of up to $250,000, imprisonment, or both (18 U.S.C § 287, 1001, and 3571).

Please complete your application carefully.

How to Contact the FEMA Helpline

Call from 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 can also send an email from the Disaster Assistance webform.

How to find a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC)

There are two ways to find a DRC near you:

  1. Use the DRC Locator to find addresses and DRC details. Find info like the hours of operation, services offered, and driving directions.
  2. Text DRC and a Zip Code to 4FEMA (43362). Example: DRC 01234. Using this option doesn’t add you to any messaging service. It’s just like doing a search on the Web. (Standard text rates may apply.)

FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) are accessible meeting places set up after a disaster. There you can learn about FEMA or other assistance programs. You may also ask questions about your case or seek guidance on other disaster-related issues. The services offered at each DRC may vary.

 

How do I apply for assistance?

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You may apply for assistance two ways:

  • Click Find Assistance on the Home page or under the Get 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 you can apply for assistance that doesn’t have an online application. Even for programs that FEMA doesn't manage.

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

You can view the FEMA Registration Intake Video to learn more about the process and how to apply. You can also learn how FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) may be able to help.

 

Do I need an email address to create an account?

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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?

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To create an online account:

  1. Click Check Your Status on the Home page or from the Get Assistance tab.
  2. Click Create Account.
  3. Enter your date of birth and Social Security number to identify yourself.
  4. 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 the FEMA Helpline. Their phone number is listed below.

    When you call you’ll need your:

    • Registration ID
    • Social Security Number
  5. 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.

  6. A temporary PIN will be sent to the email address you entered. You should get your PIN within 24 hours.
  7. 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 the FEMA Helpline:

  • 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362)

 

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

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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 the FEMA Helpline:

  • 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362)

 

What happens if I apply more than once?

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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?

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If you get an error or need help to access your account, call the FEMA Helpline:

  • 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362)

 

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

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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
  • Or send email from the Disaster Assistance webform.

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?

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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?

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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:

 

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

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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 or Forms of Assistance under the Get Assistance tab of the Home page.

 

After You Apply

How do I check the status of my application?

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

To create an account:

  1. Click Check Your Status on the Home page or from the Get Assistance tab.
  2. Click Create Account.

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

If you already have an account:

  1. Click Check Your Status on the Home page or from the Get Assistance tab.
  2. 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?

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For help to access your account, lost or forgotten user ID, password or PIN, call the FEMA Helpline:

  • 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362)

 

Is there a limit to the benefits I can get?

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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 Get 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?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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There are several ways to report disaster fraud:

  • Call the FEMA Waste, Fraud and Abuse Hotline at 1-800-323-8603 or TTY 1-844-889-4357. You don't have to give your name.
  • Fax DHS OIG Hotline at 202-254-4297.
  • Email FEMA-OCSO-Tipline@fema.dhs.gov.
  • Write to:

    DHS Office of Inspector General, Mail Stop 0305
    Attn: Office of Investigations - Hotline
    245 Murray Lane SW
    Washington, DC 20528-0305
    http://www.oig.dhs.gov

Or contact:

 

What is a secure access code?

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A secure access code is an automatically generated password. It consists of numbers or letters that verifies the user who is requesting access. You can only use it for a single transaction or session.

 

Why is a secure access code necessary to access my account?

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To help protect your information, we have increased the security to access online accounts. Since the code is valid for only one login session, it is more secure than a password or PIN that is reused.

 

How can I get my secure access code?

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You can choose to get your code from a text message, an email, or a voice phone call. We pull the phone number(s) and email address from information you provided in your FEMA registration.

 

Will I need to have a secure access code every time I access my account?

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Yes. You can only use the code once. You must have a new code each time you access your online account.

 

Do I need a secure access code to get updates when I call the FEMA Helpline?

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No. When you call the FEMA Helpline, we use other information to verify your identity. The helpline representative must verify your identity before they can give you information.

 

I already have a PIN and password. Do I need a secure access code to access my account?

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Yes. The code is an additional security measure to help protect your information. After you enter the code, you will be asked to enter your current PIN and password to access your account.

Early Registration

My area is in the path of a pending disaster. Is there anything I can do here before it hits?

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If your area is in the path of a pending disaster event, you may be able to start an application before it hits. We call this Early Registration.

Use Address Look-up on the Home page to see if Early Registration is open for your area. Or you may see a special banner posted on the Home page to let you know it’s open and for which areas.

If Early Registration open for your area, you may click Apply Online to start an application.

 

What is Early Registration?

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Early Registration lets you start or complete an application for assistance before a disaster gets a federal declaration for Individual Assistance. You may find it open for specific areas under one of two conditions only:

  1. The area is in the path of a pending major disaster event.

No disaster has hit yet but major damage is expected. In this case, the event could affect a large area. This would be an event like a Hurricane Katrina or Super Storm Sandy.

You may start an application and create an account before the disaster hits. You just can’t submit it yet. You can enter things like your name, address, and insurance info, but you won’t be able to include damage detail, since you have none yet.

  1. A major disaster has hit the area; there is damage, but the disaster does not yet have a federal declaration.

You may complete your application and include info about damage to your home and personal property. The system then holds your application and submits it for processing if the disaster is declared and includes your county.

You can use Address Look-up on the Home page to see if your area is open for Early Registration. Or, in some cases, the Home page will display a banner listing the active states or counties. If Early Registration is open, you can click Apply Online to start your application.

We recommended that you create an account when you begin the Early Registration process. This will save you time and make it easier to get back to your application later. Click Check Your Status from the Home page to create your account.

Once you have an account, you can log in, finish and submit your application, or check the status.

 

How will I know if I qualify for Early Registration?

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Use Address Look-up on the Home page to see if Early Registration is open for your area. In some cases, the Home page will display a banner listing the active states or counties.

If your address isn’t currently active for Early Registration or there’s no banner, check back again later. Just remember, not all disasters are open for Early Registration.

 

If I use Early Registration, how will I know if the disaster is declared?

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When you finish your Early Registration application, there’s an option to get email updates. Just select Yes and enter your email address. We will notify you if the disaster is declared.

If you don’t enter an email address, you’ll need to check back later to see if the disaster is declared and includes your county.

 

Does Early Registration automatically submit my application when the disaster is declared?

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For some situations, yes, the system will automatically submit your application from Early Registration. But for some it will not. Before the system can submit your application, the disaster declaration must name your county for Individual Assistance.

Why wouldn’t the system submit my application for me?

The system can’t submit your application automatically if you started it before a pending disaster. At that point, there was no damage to your home or personal property to report.

If the disaster does hit your area, and you do have damage to report, you must finish the application and add detail about the damage. Click Check Your Status from the Home page to create or log into your account to finish it. You can submit the application once that’s done.

When will the system automatically submit my application?

The system automatically submits your application if you completed it in Early Registration, after a disaster, and your county is included under a federal declaration.

Information about your home or personal property damage was already included, so you don’t need to do anything else.

What can I do if I can’t get online?

If you can’t create or access an online account, you must call the FEMA Helpline to finish your application, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week. You’ll need your Registration ID.

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

If you have technical problems accessing your account, or have a lost or forgotten user ID, password or PIN, call the FEMA Internet Help Desk, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  • 1-800-745-0243

What if my county isn’t declared?

If the disaster declaration doesn’t name your county for Individual Assistance, your state emergency management agency or office may be able to offer other help.

You could also come back later to check Address Look-up from our Home page, or review your state site or FEMA's Disaster Declarations page. You may see the county declared later.

 

What if I have questions about Early Registration?

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If you have questions about Early Registration, you can 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 if my county isn’t declared?

If the disaster declaration doesn’t name your county for Individual Assistance, your state emergency management agency or office may be able to offer other help.

You could also come back later to check Address Look-up from our Home page, or review your state site or FEMA's Disaster Declarations page. You may see the county declared later.

 

Last Updated: 07/25/2018