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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To apply for assistance, the president must make a major disaster declaration for your state. The declaration must also name the county you live in for Individual Assistance.

To see if your county has been declared:

  • Enter your city and state or ZIP code in the Look-up box on the Home page and click Look-up. This will take you to the Address Look-up page.
  • Once on the page, you will see your county and disaster name listed under “Declared Counties” if it is declared.

You can click the link for the disaster name to visit the FEMA page for more information and resources. Or click Apply Online to start your application.

The assistance offered for each disaster may vary.

 

What if my county isn't declared?

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Do you have damage from a disaster but don’t see your county declared for Individual Assistance?

Sometimes other counties are added to the declaration later. You can come back and look up your address from our Home page to see if your county has been added. You can also visit FEMA's Disaster Declarations page.

You can also contact your state emergency management agency to see if any other help is available.

 

How do I search for assistance?

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You can search for disaster assistance in two ways:

  1. Click Find Assistance either from the Home page or under the Get Assistance menu to answer the questionnaire.
    • You’ll get a personalized list of assistance you may apply for based on your answers.
    • The questionnaire is anonymous, so we don’t save your answers and they won’t be shared with any federal agency.
    • The types of questions vary, but you don’t have to answer all of them. You just get better results if you do.
    • Most questions relate directly to disasters, while others use your answers to suggest other assistance you may qualify for.
  2. Click Forms of Assistance under the Get Assistance menu for two search options.
    • You can choose to search for assistance by Category (like Housing or Insurance).
    • You can choose to search for assistance by Federal Agency (like U.S. Small Business Administration).

      The programs are the same for both lists, they’re 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 better results if you do.

Once completed, you’ll get a list of assistance you could apply for based on your answers.

It’s anonymous, so we don’t save your answers and they won’t be shared with any federal agency.

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

The questionnaire helps to narrow down your search for possible assistance. If you choose to answer it, your answers do not guarantee eligibility or assistance. It is intended as a reference only.

To apply for assistance other than FEMA’s, you will need to follow the instructions provided for each program. This may require going to another agency’s website.

 

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. It helps if you can gather your information, as much as you can, and 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 everything you need, it’s best not to complete your application until you do. If you need help, you can call the FEMA Disaster Assistance 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 any information on the application after you submit it, you need to call the Disaster Assistance Helpline.

It’s very important to know that your application basically becomes a legal document as soon as it’s submitted. 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 Disaster Assistance Helpline

Call from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week:

  • 1-800-621-3362 (also for 711 and VRS)
  • TTY 1-800-462-7585

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

How can I find a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC)?

There are two ways to find a DRC near you:

  • Use the DRC Locator to find a center near you.

    You can get the address as well as the hours of operation, services offered, and driving directions.

  • Text DRC and a ZIP Code to 43362 to find a center near you.
    Example: DRC 01234

    Using this option doesn’t add you to any messaging service. Think of it like doing a search on the web. (Standard text rates may apply.)

You can go to a Disaster Recovery Center to learn about FEMA’s 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 in two ways:

  1. Click Find Assistance on the Home page or under the Get Assistance menu and answer the anonymous questionnaire. You will get a list of assistance you may apply for based on your answers. (This does not guarantee eligibility or assistance.)

    You can then either apply online with FEMA or learn how you can apply for other assistance.

    To apply for assistance that FEMA doesn't manage, you will need to follow the instructions provided for each program. This may require going to another agency’s website.

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

View the FEMA Registration Intake Video to learn more about the process and how to apply. You can also learn how a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) may be able to help.

 

Do I need an email address to create an account?

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Yes, you must have an email address to create an account. This is the only way we can send you a PIN and you need that 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, you must first verify your identity:

  1. Click Check Status on the Home page or from the Get Assistance menu.
  2. Click Create Account.
  3. Enter your date of birth and Social Security number.
  4. Answer four security questions to prove who you are.

We pull these questions from data in your public record. We use them to make sure your personal information is secure.

Note: You have two chances to confirm your identity. If you fail the second time, you get a message that says, “Your answers do not match our records.” If that happens, click Home and go from step 1 above to try again.

If you still have problems, please call the Internet Help Desk. The phone number is below.

After your identity is verified, you may continue:

  1. Create a user ID and password. Choose ones you can easily remember.
  2. Enter an email address. This is the only way we can send you a PIN and you need that to access your account.
    A temporary PIN will be sent to the email address you entered. You should receive it within 24 hours.
  3. When you get your PIN, follow the instructions in the email to finish creating your account.

For help to create or access your account, call the Internet Help Desk, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:

  • 1-800-745-0243

When you call the help desk, you need to provide the following:

  • Your Registration ID
  • Your Social Security Number

To comply with the Privacy Act, help desk staff cannot create an online account for you.

They also cannot provide information or help with your FEMA account or application. You must contact the Disaster Assistance Helpline or visit a DRC for account or application help.

 

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 four security questions to prove who you are. We pull these questions from data in your public record. We use them 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 or for lost or forgotten user ID, password or PIN, call the Internet Help Desk, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:

  • 1-800-745-0243

Help desk staff cannot provide any information or help with your FEMA account or application. You must contact the Disaster Assistance Helpline or visit a DRC for account or application help.

 

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 disaster.

Be sure you choose the correct disaster on the first page of each application. Enter only the damage and losses that are specific to that 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 Internet Help Desk, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:

  • 1-800-745-0243

Help desk staff cannot provide any information or help with your FEMA account or application. You must contact the Disaster Assistance Helpline or visit a DRC for account or application help.

 

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

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

  • 1-800-621-3362 (also for 711 and VRS)
  • TTY 1-800-462-7585

Or send email from the Disaster Assistance webform.

You can also visit a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). DRCs are set up in convenient areas to make them easier to find.

At a DRC, you can meet with FEMA staff to learn how you can get help or to ask questions about your application.

There are two ways to find a DRC:

  • Use the DRC Locator to search for a center near you.

    You can also learn more about each DRC, like hours of operation, services offered, and driving directions.

  • Text DRC and a ZIP code to 43362 to find a center near you.
    Example: DRC 01234

    Using this option doesn’t add you to any messaging service. Think of it like doing a search on the web. (Standard text message rates apply.)

 

How long before my session times out?

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Your application session times out if there is no activity for 20 minutes. At that point, you won’t be able to continue and any data you entered before the time-out will be lost.

  • 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.

You will need to re-enter any data you didn’t save before the time-out.

 

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. It could also be someone with legal status for any of the following:

  • Asylum
  • Refugee
  • Parole (admission into the U.S. for humanitarian reasons)
  • Withholding of deportation
  • 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, regardless of citizenship status. Programs like the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP) and Disaster Legal Services (DLS). Other short-term, non-cash emergency help, like mass shelters, may also be available.

Voluntary Organizations

Voluntary organizations also offer help regardless of citizenship status. To 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 FEMA assistance over the phone, call the Disaster Assistance Helpline, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week:

  • 1-800-621-3362 (also for 711 and VRS)
  • TTY 1-800-462-7585

To find assistance from other agencies and learn how to apply, you have two options

  • Click Find Assistance from the Home page and answer the anonymous questionnaire.

    OR

  • Click Forms of Assistance under the Get Assistance menu of the Home page to search by category or federal agency.

To apply to other agencies, you will need to follow the instructions provided for each program. This may require going to other agency websites.

 

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 begin creating an account:

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

Read How do I create an account to get further instructions.

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

If you already have an account:

  1. Click Check Status on the Home page or from the Get Assistance menu.
  2. Log in with your user ID, password, and PIN, and the one-time secure access code you will need to request.
    This will take you to the Your Application Status page.

If you aren’t sure if you finished your application, call the Disaster Assistance Helpline, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week:

  • 1-800-621-3362 (also for 711 and VRS)
  • TTY 1-800-462-7585

 

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

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For help to access your account, or for lost or forgotten user ID, password or PIN, call the Internet Help Desk, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:

  • 1-800-745-0243

Help desk staff cannot provide any information or help with your FEMA account or application. You must contact the Disaster Assistance Helpline or visit a DRC for account or application help.

 

Is there a limit to the benefits I can get?

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Benefit amounts and durations vary by agency and form of assistance, based on survivor need. You can find out what’s available by clicking Find Assistance on the Home page or under the Get Assistance menu 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 not met through other means. The maximum amount offered under IHP is set on an annual basis. Not everyone will qualify for the maximum.

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

Proper Use

All money offered by FEMA is tax-free and you must use it 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 cannot duplicate benefits for losses covered by your insurance company. They can only help with confirmed losses that insurance did not cover. FEMA’s programs do not replace insurance. The help offered is not as complete as an insurance policy. They cannot cover all disaster-related losses.

Assistance Periods

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

Temporary Housing Assistance issued is for an initial period of one, two, or three months.

If you need further assistance, you must prove that you’ve spent any prior FEMA money as instructed. And you must show you have made efforts to get permanent housing.

Any Extended Temporary Housing Assistance issued is 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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Maybe. By law, FEMA cannot 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 there is a delay in your settlement, 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 then get from FEMA are an advance and must be repaid when you get your settlement.

Insufficient Insurance Settlement

If you still have unmet disaster-related needs after your insurance settlement, 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 Disaster Assistance Helpline, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week:

  • 1-800-621-3362 (also for 711 and VRS)
  • TTY 1-800-462-7585

 

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

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Yes. 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

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

  • 1-800-621-3362 (also for 711 & VRS)
  • TTY 1-800-462-7585

 

Does disaster assistance have to be repaid?

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It depends on the type of assistance you received.

You don’t usually have to repay assistance from FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP). However, if you told FEMA there was a delay in your insurance settlement, any FEMA money issued to you would be an advance. You must repay this 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). You must repay those loans.

 

How can I report disaster fraud?

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If you want to report suspicious activity or disaster fraud, you can find several contacts under the Disaster Fraud section of our Contact Us page.

 

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 you can reuse.

 

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 Disaster Assistance Helpline?

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No. When you call the Disaster Assistance 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 must 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 the Look-up field on the Home page to see if Early Registration is open for your area. Or there may be 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 only find it open for specific areas under one of two conditions:

  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. But you can’t submit it yet.

    You can enter things like your name, address, and insurance info. You just won’t be able to include damage detail, since you have none yet.

  2. 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 the 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 that lists the active states or counties.

If Early Registration is open, you can click Apply Online to start your application.

We suggest 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 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 your status.

 

How will I know if I qualify for Early Registration?

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Use the 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 that lists the active states or counties.

If your area isn’t currently active for Early Registration, or there is no banner posted, 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 report to your home or personal property.

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 Status from the Home page to create or log into your account. Once finished, you may submit your application.

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 in a federal declaration.

Information about your home or personal property damage was included in your application, 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 Disaster Assistance Helpline to finish your application, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week. You need your Registration ID.

  • 1-800-621-3362 (also for 711 and VRS)
  • TTY 1-800-462-7585

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

  • 1-800-745-0243

Help desk staff cannot provide any information or help with your FEMA account or application. You must contact the Disaster Assistance Helpline or visit a DRC for account or application help.

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.

But it’s also possible that your county could be added to the declaration later. You can always come back to check the Look-up from our Home page to see if it’s been added.

You can also review your state website or FEMA's Disaster Declarations page.

 

What if I have questions about Early Registration?

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If you have questions about Early Registration, you can call the Disaster Assistance Helpline, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week:

  • 1-800-621-3362 (also for 711 and VRS)
  • TTY 1-800-462-7585

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.

But it’s also possible that your county could be added to the declaration later. You can always come back to check the Look-up from our Home page to see if it’s been added.

You can also review your state site or FEMA's Disaster Declarations page.

 

Last Updated: 10/23/2018