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LAW Home > Legal Topics > Government Aid and Services > Disaster Assistance

Disaster Assistance with Housing, Business, and Other Services


  • Disaster Assistance from FEMA

    • Housing Needs

      • Temporary Housing (a place to live for a limited period of time): Money is available to rent a different place to live, or a government provided housing unit when rental properties are not available. Search for information about housing rental resources at FEMA's New Jersey Severe Storms and Inland and Coastal Flooding page.

      • Repair: Money is available to homeowners to repair damage from the disaster to their primary residence that is not covered by insurance. The goal is to make the damaged home safe, sanitary, and functional. "Housing Needs" assistance is assistance from FEMA that may be used to repair any of the following:

        • Structural parts of your home (foundation, outside walls, roof).
        • Windows, doors, floors, walls, ceilings, cabinetry.
        • Septic or sewage system.
        • Well or other water system.
        • Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system.
        • Utilities (electrical, plumbing, and gas systems).
        • Entrance and exit ways from your home, including privately owned access roads.
        • Blocking, leveling, and anchoring of a mobile home and recon-necting or resetting its sewer, water, electrical, fuel lines, and tanks.

      • Replacement: Money is available to homeowners to replace their home destroyed in the disaster that is not covered by insurance. The goal is to help the homeowner with the cost of replacing their destroyed home. 

      • Permanent Housing Construction: Direct assistance or money for the construction of a home. This type of help occurs only in insular areas or remote locations specified by FEMA, where no other type of housing assistance is possible. 

    • Other than housing needs – Money is available for necessary expenses and serious needs caused by the disaster. This includes:

      • Disaster-related medical and dental costs.
      • Disaster-related funeral and burial cost.
      • Clothing; household items (room furnishings, appliances); tools (specialized or protective clothing and equipment) required for your job; necessary educational materials (computers, school books, supplies).
      • Fuels for primary heat source (heating oil, gas, firewood).
      • Clean-up items (wet/dry vacuum, air purifier, dehumidifier).
      • Disaster damaged vehicle.
      • Moving and storage expenses related to the disaster (moving and storing property to avoid additional disaster damage while disaster-related repairs are being made to the home).
      • Other necessary expenses or serious needs as determined by FEMA.
      • Other expenses that are authorized by law.

    • Additional Services

      • Crisis Counseling – The Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP), authorized by §416 of the Stafford Act, is designed to provide supplemental funding to States for short-term crisis counseling services to people affected in Presidentially declared disasters. There are two separate portions of the CCP that can be funded: immediate services and regular services. A State may request either or both types of funding.

        The immediate services program is intended to enable the State or local agency to respond to the immediate mental health needs with screening, diagnostic, and counseling techniques, as well as outreach services such as public information and community networking.

        The regular services program is designed to provide up to nine months of crisis counseling, community outreach, and consultation and education services to people affected by a Presidentially declared disaster. Funding for this program is separate from the immediate services grant.

      • Disaster Unemployment Assistance – The Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) program provides unemployment benefits and re-employment services to individuals who have become unemployed because of major disasters. Benefits begin with the date the individual was unemployed due to the disaster incident and can extend up to 26 weeks after the Presidential declaration date. These benefits are made available to individuals not covered by other unemployment compensation programs, such as self-employed, farmers, migrant and seasonal workers, and those who have insufficient quarters to qualify for other unemployment compensation.

      • Legal Services – When the President declares a disaster, FEMA/EPR, through an agreement with the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association, provides free legal assistance to disaster victims. Legal advice is limited to cases that will not produce a fee (i.e., these attorneys work without payment). Cases that may generate a fee are turned over to the local lawyer referral service. The assistance that participating lawyers provide typically includes:

        • Assistance with insurance claims (life, medical, property, etc.)
        • Counseling on landlord/tenant problems
        • Assisting in consumer protection matters, remedies, and procedures
        • Replacement of wills and other important legal documents destroyed in a major disaster.
      • Special Tax Considerations

        • Taxpayers who have sustained a casualty loss from a declared disaster may deduct that loss on the federal income tax return for the year in which the casualty actually occurred, or elect to deduct the loss on the tax return for the preceding tax year.
        • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can expedite refunds due to taxpayers in a federally declared disaster area. An expedited refund can be a relatively quick source of cash, does not need to be repaid, and does not need an Individual Assistance declaration.

  • Small Business Administration Disaster Loans – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) can make federally subsidized loans to repair or replace homes, personal property or businesses that sustained damages not covered by insurance. The Small Business Administration can provide three types of disaster loans to qualified homeowners and businesses:

    • home disaster loans to homeowners and renters to repair or replace disaster-related damages to home or personal property,
    • business physical disaster loans to business owners to repair or replace disaster-damaged property, including inventory, and supplies; an:
    • economic injury disaster loans, which provide capital to small businesses and to small
      agricultural cooperatives to assist them through the disaster recovery period.

  • Disaster Assistance from the Red Cross - Red Cross disaster relief focuses on meeting people's immediate emergency disaster-caused needs. The Red Cross provides shelter, food, and health and mental health services to address basic human needs. In addition to these services, the core of Red Cross disaster relief is the assistance given to individuals and families affected by disaster to enable them to resume their normal daily activities independently. Each Red Cross chapter office maintains of list of referrals to agencies that provide additional assistance.