What should I know about financial help after a disaster?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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Financial help

Financial help after disaster in Georgia


What is a federally declared disaster? 

A federally declared disaster happens when the President declares that an area affected by a disaster is eligible for federal assistance. This declaration triggers several forms of financial relief for people who live in the affected area. You can find a list of federally declared disasters on the FEMA website.

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What types of financial help are available after a federally declared disaster?

The government offers several types of financial help to people affected by a federally declared disaster. 


FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP)

FEMA’s Individual and Households Program (IHP) gives financial and direct services to people affected by a disaster. IHP assistance is a supplement to insurance. It is meant to help you meet your basic needs after a disaster. In general, IHP assistance is available for 18 months after the disaster declaration. 


FEMA’s IHP might provide financial help in a variety of ways. This is not money that you will need to repay. You could get assistance paying for:

  • Rent. FEMA might help pay for rent while your house is repaired or while you are waiting to move to a permanent home. 

  • Temporary housing. You might get money to help you pay for a hotel or other short-term housing.

    • In some cases, FEMA may provide temporary housing units (FEMA trailers).

  • Home repair. You might get money to help fix damages to your house. This only covers damages that are not covered by insurance. 

  • Home replacement. If your home is destroyed, you may get money to help you replace or rebuild.

  • Medical/Dental. If you have medical or dental expenses caused by the disaster, you may get money to help you pay these bills. 

  • Funeral. If a loved one died or their grave was disinterred by the disaster, you may be eligible for funeral costs. 

  • Child care. IHP may provide financial assistance if you have increased child care costs because of the disaster.

  • Other necessary items. IHP might provide money to buy things like a generator or a wet/dry vacuum. 

  • Cleaning and removal. IHP may give financial assistance to help you clean areas affected by floodwater. 

  • Critical needs. You might be able to get money to cover other immediate or critical needs that exist because you were forced out of your home.


You are only eligible for some types of assistance if you first apply for, and are denied, an SBA disaster loan. This assistance includes:

  • Personal property. You may get money to replace common household items. 

  • Car repair. You may be eligible for money to repair or replace a vehicle damaged during the disaster. 

  • Moving and storage expenses. If you need to move or store items because your home was damaged, IHP might provide assistance.


You are eligible for IHP if:

  • You have losses in a federally declared disaster area,

  • You or a member of your household are:

    • A U.S. citizen,

    • A non-citizen national, or

    • A qualified alien.

  • You have: 

    • Necessary expenses or serious needs as a result of the disaster that not covered by insurance, or

    • You filed an insurance claim but your payout will not be enough to cover your expenses, or

    • Your damage wasn’t covered by insurance or other sources.


SBA loans

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) also offers low-interest disaster loans to people in a declared disaster area. This is not just for business owners. This is not a grant, this is a loan that will need to be repaid. 


A SBA Disaster Loan can be used to repair and replace items damaged or destroyed by a federally declared disaster, including:

  • Real estate,

  • Personal Property,

  • Machinery and equipment, and 

  • Inventory and business assets.


If you are not a business owner, you can apply for a SBA Home and Personal Property Loan. This loan can be used to:

  • Repair or replace your primary residence (up to $200,000),

  • Refinance all or part of your previous mortgage, or

  • Repair or replace personal property (up to $40,000).


To be eligible for a SBA Home and Personal Property Loan:

  • Your primary residence must be in the federally declared disaster area.

  • File an insurance claim if you have insurance. 

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What are my rights and responsibilities with FEMA and SBA help?

If you are eligible for help, you have the right to apply for FEMA IHP assistance or an SBA loan. 


If you disagree with the decision on your FEMA application, you have the right to appeal that decision.


You are responsible for providing documents that will help FEMA and the SBA evaluate your applications. 


You are responsible for using the funds appropriately. If you misuse funds, you may be required to return them. You may also be disqualified from other assistance.

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How do I apply for FEMA assistance?

Before you apply

Before you apply, FEMA recommends that you:

  • Take pictures of the damages to your house and property,

  • Make a thorough list of all your damaged or lost items,

  • File a claim with your insurance company. Before you can get FEMA help, you have to file an insurance claim (if you have insurance).


Documents needed

To apply, you will need:

  • Proof of ID,

  • Proof that you rent or own the property that was damaged,

  • An insurance determination letter. 



You can apply for FEMA’s IHP assistance or check your application status:

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What happens after I apply for FEMA assistance?

After you apply for FEMA assistance:

  • Within 10 days of your application you will get a phone call from a FEMA Inspector. 

    • Have your registration number on hand. The inspector will ask about the damage.

    • If you reported minimal damage to you will not get a call. You will get a letter informing you of your next steps.

  • Within 10 days of the inspector’s call, you will be sent a decision letter.

    • If you are eligible for assistance, your letter will tell you the amount and how it will be used.

  • You will get any award money via:  

    • U.S. Treasury Check or 

    • Direct deposit. 

  • You may also be referred to the U.S. Small Business Administration for a low-interest loan. You DO NOT have to apply for this loan. However, you will not be eligible for some FEMA assistance if you do not apply.

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How do I appeal a FEMA decision?

Once a decision is made on your application, you will get an eligibility notification letter. If you disagree with the decision, you have the right to appeal.

  • You must appeal within 60 days of the date on your eligibility letter.

  • You must include with your appeal:

    • Your full name. Your FEMA Application Number and Disaster Number. Your pre-disaster primary address. Your current address and phone number

    • A written statement that explains why the decision is wrong.

    • Copies of any documents that support your statement.

  • Send the appeal:

    • By mail. FEMA, PO BOX 10055, Hyattsville, MD 20782-8055

    • By fax. Attn: FEMA Appeals Officer, 800-827-8112

    • Upload documents to your disasterassistance.gov account.

  • You will get a decision on your appeal within 90 days. 

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How do I apply for a SBA disaster loan?

Before you apply

If you are a homeowner or renter and you want to apply for a SBA loan, you first have to apply with FEMA.



After you’ve completed your FEMA application, you can apply for a SBA loan:


After you apply

After you apply, the SBA will:

  • Review your credit,

  • Estimate the total physical loss to your property,

  • Determine your eligibility, and 

  • Contact you to discuss your loan recommendation and the next steps.


If you qualify for a loan, you will then get the Loan Closing Documents and disburse your loan amount. 


If you do not qualify for a loan, you will automatically be referred to FEMA’s Other Needs Assistance (ONA) program. This potentially qualifies you for financial assistance for car damage, moving and storage, and personal property damage.

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More info


Last Review and Update: Apr 28, 2022
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