This section discusses FEMA assistance after a presidential disaster declaration, including helping survivors apply for assistance and common types of assistance. After a federal disaster declaration, FEMA assistance is typically the first aid available for survivors.56 Although some individuals are wary of applying due to misconceptions or lack of information, as a rule of thumb FEMA encourages affected individuals to apply.57 After applying for FEMA, clients often do not understand what is going on with their FEMA application or reasons for denial—especially if a client is displaced and without a reliable mailing address, thereby missing important FEMA notices about their application.58
Encourage clients to create accounts on www.disasterassistance.gov, a website created under the Disaster Assistance Improvement Program with the goals of improving survivor access to disaster information and making the process of applying for disaster assistance easier. A www.disasterassistance.gov account automatically populates a report of correspondence sent to and received from the applicant, even if their account is created several months or years after the disaster. In some cases, the full documents may be available only for correspondence sent from FEMA, but not for documents received by FEMA from the applicant—so its usefulness may be limited for reviewing prior submissions by a client.
56 44 C.F.R. §§ 206.1, 206.3.
57 FEMA, Myth vs. Fact: The Truth about Registering for Federal Disaster Assistance (Feb. 9, 2017), available at https://www.fema.gov.
58 FEMA, Reasons Why FEMA May Have Found You Ineligible (Sept. 23, 2020), available at https://www.fema.gov.