Federal Disaster Assistance

Major Disaster Declarations

When the State suffers a large-scale disaster, and damages overwhelm the State's capability to respond and recover, the Governor may request a Major Disaster Declaration from the President.  Once a Declaration is received, FEMA assistance programs are implemented.  MEMA coordinates the delivery of the disaster assistance with FEMA on behalf of the Governor.

Before a request can be made, damage assessments are conducted by local officials, coordinated by County EMAs.  FEMA then will work with the State to verify these initial assessments, and determine whether the State has met the required thresholds to request a Major Disaster Declaration.  Potential FEMA programs include:

Public Assistance

Public Assistance includes state and local response costs, debris clearance and damage to public infrastructure.  The State must meet a threshold of cost and damages set by regulation, as must each County for which assistance is requested.  Reimbursement is made to the affected jurisdictions, following joint damage assessments.  

Individual Assistance

Individual assistance provides recovery support to individuals and businesses in the form of low-interest SBA loans (to businesses and some individual applicants) and grants.  Assistance covers such items as temporary housing  home repairs, loss of furniture or belongings and some disaster-related medical expenses.   Both grant and loan assistance for applicants are capped.

To qualify for Individual Assistance programs, the State must be able to demonstrate a very large number of homes and businesses affected overall and in each affected County.  The State does not often meet this threshold.

SBA Disaster Declarations

SBA assistance accompanies FEMA assistance under a major disaster declaration, may be requested separately as well.  SBA assistance to businesses is in the form of low-interest loans.  The State may request assistance for economic injury or for physical damage to homes or businesses depending on the level of impact and the numbers affected.

Other Federal Programs

The US Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency, offers disaster assistance for agriculture impact in a State.

In a catastrophic disaster, additional federal aid programs may be granted to a State on a case-by-case basis.