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Post-Disaster Financial Assistance

Published on: 2/13/2013 4:18 PM
FEMA and other federal, state, local and volunteer agencies offer disaster financial assistance in several forms:
Low-Interest Loans
Most, but not all, federal assistance is in the form of low interest loans to cover expenses not covered by state or local programs, or private insurance. People who do not qualify for loans may be able to apply for a cash grant. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA), offer low interest loans to eligible individuals, farmers and businesses to repair or replace damaged property and personal belongings not covered by insurance.
Cash Grants
Individuals who do not qualify for a loan from SBA may be eligible for grants from the State to help recover unmet necessary expenses and serious needs. These unmet necessary expenses and serious needs include medical, dental, and funeral expenses that are incurred as a result of the disaster. Home inspections are normally conducted before a check is issued. FEMA funds 75% of the grant program's eligible costs with the remaining 25% covered by the state. The state administers the program, known as the Individual and Family Grant (IFG) program.
Housing Assistance
FEMA's Disaster Housing Program (DHA) makes funds and services available to individuals whose homes are unlivable because of a disaster.
Veterans Benefits
The Department of Veterans' Affairs provides death benefits, pensions, insurance settlements and adjustments to home mortgages for veterans.
Tax Refunds
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows certain casualty losses to be deducted on Federal income tax returns for the year of the loss or through an immediate amendment to the previous year's return.
Excise Tax Relief
Businesses may file claims with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) for payment of Federal excise taxes paid on alcoholic beverages or tobacco products lost, rendered unmarketable or condemned by a duly authorized official under various circumstances, including where the President has declared a major disaster.
Unemployment Benefits
Disaster Unemployment assistance and unemployment insurance benefits may be available through the state unemployment office and supported by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Crisis Counseling
The purpose of the crisis counseling program is to help relieve any grieving, stress, or mental health problems caused or aggravated by the disaster or its aftermath. These short-term services, provided by FEMA as supplemental funds granted to State and local mental health agencies, are only available to eligible survivors of Presidentially-declared major disasters. Those who may require this confidential service should inquire about it while registering for disaster assistance. Or they may contact FEMA's toll-free Helpline number 1-800-525-0321 (TTY 1-800-462-7585) to find out where these services can be obtained. Crisis counselors are often on-hand at Disaster Recovery Centers (when they are established). Eligible survivors may also learn more about where crisis counseling services are available via the media, and FEMA's Recovery Times newsletters. Crisis counseling services are also offered by the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, other voluntary agencies, as well as churches and synagogues. Additional mental health information may be found on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Mental Health Services' website.
Free Legal Counseling
The Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association, through an agreement with FEMA, provides free legal advice for low-income individuals regarding cases that will not produce a fee (i.e., those cases where attorneys are paid part of the settlement which is awarded by the court). Cases that may generate a fee are turned over to the local lawyer referral service. Individuals, families and businesses may be eligible for federal assistance if they live, own a business, or work in a county declared a Major Disaster Area, incur sufficient property damage or loss, and, depending on the type of assistance, do not have the insurance or other resources to meet their needs.
To apply for Disaster Housing and IFG assistance, all you have to do is call the special toll free telephone number, 1-800-462-9029 (TTY: 1-800-462-7585) and register. Specially trained operators at one of FEMA's National Processing Service Centers will process your application.
Your rights: Each Federal agency that provides Federal financial assistance is responsible for investigating complaints of discrimination in the use of its funds. If you believe that you or others protected by Civil Rights laws have been discriminated against in receiving disaster assistance, you may contact one of FEMA's Equal Rights Officers (ERO), who has the job of ensuring equal access to all FEMA disaster programs. The ERO will attempt to resolve your issues. You can read more about your civil rights on the FEMA site.