For Households

Disaster Assistance for Households

Immediate Emergency Help

The American Red Cross (ARC), Salvation Army, and other voluntary organizations active in disaster provide immediate aid in the way of clothing, emergency food, medical assistance, emergency shelter, clean-up help, transportation help, and furniture. This assistance is available upon the request of the individual or government agencies during any significant emergency.


Insurance polices such as homeowner, earthquake, flood, and other hazard policies are always the first step in protecting your financial investment in times of disaster. When the president declares a major disaster, a variety of federal and state assistance programs may be available to meet survivors’ essential and necessary needs. However, it is important to understand that all the various aid programs combined will not return you to your pre-disaster condition. Having insurance is your best alternative.

Individuals And Households Program

The Individuals and Households Program (IHP) consists of Housing Assistance (HA) and Other Needs Assistance (ONA). Housing Assistance assists disaster victims with housing needs and is administered and fully funded by FEMA. Other Needs Assistance provides disaster assistance awards for eligible medical, dental, and funeral expenses, as well as personal property, transportation, and other necessary expenses or serious needs.

Note: The average award from IHP Housing or Other Needs Assistance is very small in comparison to the maximum available. Eligibility for assistance in based upon essential needs as determined by a FEMA inspection. The program, by design of Congress, only provides limited assistance to help an individual or household on the road to recovery. Private insurance is ones’ best bet to hedge the financial loss created by disaster.

Housing Assistance

After insurance considerations, FEMA may provide housing assistance in a number of ways. Eligible individuals/households may receive financial assistance to rent alternate housing, pay for short-term transient accommodations, repair owner occupied private residences, and to replace owner-occupied private residences.

FEMA also may provide direct housing assistance in the form of temporary housing units that FEMA purchases or leases for disaster victims.

Farm Service Agency Loans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency provides low-interest loans to farmers and ranchers for physical and production losses, repair or replacement of farm property, and supplies or repayment of farm operating debts incurred during the disaster year. It is available with a presidential disaster declaration, but as with the SBA Disaster Loans, this loan program can also be approved by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture following a request by the governor. See the U.S. Department of Agriculture fact sheet for more details.

Other Needs Assistance

For the most part, the only way to get assistance from Other Needs Assistance (ONA) is to have a disaster need not covered by an SBA loan or be determined ineligible for an SBA loan.

ONA awards are available to qualified individuals and families to meet serious, disaster-related needs and necessary expenses for which assistance from other federal, state or voluntary agency disaster assistance programs is unavailable or inadequate. Typically, these needs fall into the categories of medical, dental and funeral expenses, as well as personal property, transportation and other necessary expenses or serious needs resulting from a major disaster. This program is only available when the president declares a disaster.

Voluntary Agencies Unmet Needs Assistance

Once a disaster survivor has exhausted all other programs in pursuit of assistance, the American Red Cross and other voluntary agencies implement programs to assist people in meeting their essential and necessary remaining unmet needs. Many of the voluntary agency programs are constrained by a lack of funds. However, if a person can hang onto their federal disaster assistance dollars to purchase materials, the voluntary agencies can often come up with the voluntary labor necessary to complete necessary repairs.

Cora Brown Fund

The late Cora C. Brown of Kansas City, Missouri, left part of her estate to the federal government intending that the funds be used to aid disaster victims. The Cora Brown fund is used for disaster-related needs of individual or families who are unable to obtain adequate assistance from other federal, state, and local government programs or from voluntary agencies. The fund is not intended to replace or supersede those programs; therefore, if assistance is available from another source, the Cora Brown Fund may not be used. Awards from this fund may be granted only at the discretion of the FEMA Headquarters.