After an Emergency (Recover)

General Information

A disaster's long-term recovery phase places severe financial strains on local / state governments. Damages to public facilities and infrastructure, which are often uninsured, overwhelm even large cities.

A governor's request for a major disaster declaration could mean an infusion of federal funds; however, the governor must also commit significant state funds and resources for recovery efforts.

Major Disaster Declarations

A major disaster could result from any hurricane, earthquake, flood, tornado, or major fire that the president believes warrants supplemental federal aid. The event must be clearly more than state or local governments can handle alone.

If declared, funding comes from the president's disaster relief fund, managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and disaster aid programs of participating federal agencies.

A presidential major disaster declaration puts into motion long-term federal recovery programs, some matched by state programs, that are designed to help disaster victims, businesses, and public entities.

Emergency Declarations

An emergency declaration is more limited in scope and does not warrant the long-term federal recovery programs of a major disaster declaration. Generally, federal assistance and funding are provided to meet a specific emergency need or to help prevent a major disaster from occurring.

Individual Assistance Immediately after a major disaster declaration, FEMA workers arrive and will set up:
  • Disaster recovery centers that allow victims to meet with program representatives and obtain information about both the recovery process and available aid (our current plans are to use 100 Fairfield Ave as our primary recovery center)
  • A toll-free telephone number for use by affected residents and business owners who wish to register for assistance

Types of Disaster Aid

Disaster aid for individuals generally falls into the following categories:
  • Disaster grants - Disaster grants are available to help meet other serious disaster-related needs and necessary expenses not covered by insurance and other aid programs. These may include replacement of personal property, transportation, and medical, dental, and funeral expenses.
  • Disaster housing - This program may be available for up to 18 months, using local resources, for displaced persons whose residences were heavily damaged or destroyed. Funding also can be provided for housing repairs and replacement of damaged items to make homes habitable.
  • Low-interest disaster loans - Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S Small Business Administration are available after a disaster for homeowners and renters and cover uninsured property losses. Loans may be for repair or replacement of homes, automobiles, clothing, or other damaged personal property. Business loans are available for property loss and economic injury.
  • Other disaster aid programs - These programs include crisis counseling, disaster-related unemployment assistance, legal aid, and assistance with income tax, and Social Security and veteran's benefits. Other state or local help may also be available.

Assistance Process

After an application is taken, the damaged property is inspected to verify the loss. If approved, an applicant will soon receive either a check for rental assistance or a grant. Loan applications require more information, and approval may take several weeks after application. The deadline for most individual assistance programs is 60 days following the president's major disaster declaration.

It is critical that residents who have sustained damage contact FEMA and receive a FEMA case number. This case number will be important later on as other funding sources become available.

Audits are done later to ensure that aid went to only those who were eligible and that disaster aid funds were used only for their intended purposes. These federal program funds cannot duplicate assistance provided by other sources, such as insurance.

After a major disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency tries to notify all disaster victims about applying for different available aid programs. The news media are encouraged to visit a disaster recovery center, meet with disaster officials, and publicize both the toll-free registration number and disaster aid programs.
Resources Access different resources that provide information about recovering from disasters. Resources