What can I do if I was impacted by a natural disaster?

  1. Apply for disaster assistance.
  2. Find temporary housing if your home was damaged.
  3. Get emotional support, if needed.
  4. Be aware of con artists and scams.

Step 1: Apply for disaster assistance.

If you live in an area where a natural disaster occurred, and need temporary housing, home repair, employment, financial, food, legal, and/or medical assistance, apply for FEMA disaster assistance as soon as possible. FEMA will confirm what types of assistance you are eligible for in your area.

How to apply for FEMA disaster assistance

You can also search for FEMA assistance by category here.

How to get help for other immediate needs

  • Immediate Emergency Assistance
    • Dial 9-1-1.
  • Emergency Shelter
  • Disabilities or Access and Functional Needs
  • Other Needs
    • Call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 / TTY (800) 462-7585 to find if there may be additional referrals for available services.

    Step 2: Find temporary housing if your home was damaged.

    • Stay with Friends or Family

    For those who have friends or family who live nearby in a safe area, ask if you can stay with them for a short time while you have no other place to live.

    • Find Temporary Emergency Shelter

    If you are in need of temporary emergency shelter after escaping a natural disaster, these options are available to you:

    • Get Housing Assistance Through FEMA

    After applying, FEMA will let applicants know which services can be offered in their area. These temporary housing options may be available to you:

    Individuals and Households Program (IHP)

    The agency's primary housing assistance program is the Individuals and Households Program (IHP). IHP can provide the following housing assistance while you're waiting for repairs or transitioning to a permanent residence elsewhere:

    • Lodging expense reimbursement for short-term stays in hotels or motels.
    • Rental assistance for temporary housing OR direct temporary housing in the forms below:
      • Multi-family lease and repair
      • Recreational vehicle (RV)
      • Manufactured housing unit (MHU)
      • Direct lease
    • Money to help repair or replace your primary home.
    • Permanent housing construction.

    The general program requirements are as follows:

    • You have losses in a presidentially declared disaster area.
    • You have no insurance or have filed an insurance claim, but it does not cover all of your damage or loss.
    • You or someone who lives with you is a U.S. citizen, a non-citizen national, or a qualified alien.
    • Your primary home is the one affected.
    • You can't access your home or your home requires repairs because of disaster damage.
    • Other conditions and limitations apply.

    FEMA’s preference is to move families from temporary lodging like motels and provide rental assistance for for moves to more stable housing like apartments. IHP assistance has maximum limits set by FEMA based on household composition and the circumstances of the households losses. IHP assistance has a time limit of 18 months. You can read more about FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program here.

    Other Needs Assistance (ONA)

    FEMA’s IHP program also provides Other Needs Assistance (ONA). This covers non-housing assistance such as medical, child care, and funeral assistance. Some types of assistance depend on the applicant's qualification for a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan.

    SBA-Dependent ONA Assistance:
    (Can only be provided if the applicant did not qualify for a SBA disaster loan, or if their loan did not meet the applicant's needs.)

    • Personal Property Assistance
      • To repair or replace essential household items including, but not limited to, furnishings and appliances, and specialized tools and protective clothing required by an employer. Assistance for specific accessibility items defined within the ADA is not counted toward an applicant’s financial ONA maximum.
    • Transportation Assistance
      • To repair or replace an eligible vehicle damaged by a disaster and other transportation-related costs.
    • Moving and Storage Assistance
      • To relocate and store personal essential household goods from the damaged primary residence to prevent further disaster damage, such as ongoing
        repairs, and returning the property to the applicant’s primary residence.

    Non-SBA Dependent ONA Assistance:

    • Funeral Assistance
      • Assistance is available to eligible individuals and households who incur or will incur expenses related to a death or disinterment attributed directly or indirectly to a
        declared emergency or major disaster.
    • Medical and Dental Assistance To assist with medical or dental expenses caused by a disaster, which may include injury, illness, loss of prescribed medication and equipment,
      insurance co-payments, or loss/injury to a service animal. Child Care Assistance: A one-time payment, covering up to eight cumulative weeks of child care expenses, for a household’s increased financial burden to care for children aged 13 and under; and/or children up to age 21 with a disability who need assistance with activities with daily living as defined by federal law. Miscellaneous or Other Items Assistance: To reimburse for eligible items purchased or rented after a disaster incident to assist with an applicant’s disaster recovery, such as gaining access to the property or assisting with cleaning efforts. Eligible items are identified by the state, territorial, or tribal government and may include items such as a chainsaw or dehumidifier.

    Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA)

    In cases where people in shelters are unable to return to their homes for an extended period because they are uninhabitable, FEMA may provide Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA). TSA pays lodging providers directly for short-term accommodations. Stays are up to 14 days but can be renewed up to a maximum of 60 days. Once families are eligible for FEMA rental assistance and suitable units identified, the move off of TSA. FEMA’s web page on Transitional Shelter Assistance provides more information.

    • Information for HUD Residents and Low-Income Renters

    Households receiving HUD assistance, such as those living in Public Housing or receiving Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher assistance, cannot also receive FEMA housing assistance at the same time. While a family is out of of their damaged unit, they would use FEMA rental assistance. Once they return to the repaired unit, the FEMA assistance is terminated and the HUD assistance renews. HUD-assisted households should still apply to FEMA for disaster recovery assistance because the IHP program can help with Other Needs Assistance while the family is dislocated and rebuilding.

    If you lived in Public Housing before the disaster, the housing authority will work with your household and coordinate with FEMA to provide housing assistance. Most often, FEMA rental assistance will help families until they can return to their repaired public housing units. In cases where Public Housing units are too damaged to be repaired for an extended time, the housing authority may provide Relocation Vouchers.

    If you lived in an apartment with Project-Based Section 8 Rental Assistance, the property’s owner has the option of renting a temporary apartment for your household and continuing to collect payments from HUD. The tenant still pays the same rent to the landlord. If the owner does not choose this option HUD will not provide the owner with Housing Assistance Payments. The tenant can use FEMA IHP rental assistance for another unit while waiting for the owner to repair the apartment or preparing to move somewhere else. If the tenant moves back into the original apartment their Section 8 assistance begins again.

    What can Section 8 Voucher Holders do?

    Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers may be used nationwide. If you decide to permanently relocate to another city or state, you will need to go through the voucher portability process. The process can be complex, but the housing authority you are leaving and the housing authority you wish to move to will both assist you in completing the transfer. Contact your caseworker to get the process started. Read our short explanation of voucher portability here, or read more detailed information at HUD’s Portability page.

    How do I find affordable housing?

    If you are looking for affordable housing, but do not have a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, there may still be housing assistance available to you.

    You can find housing information by searching our website here for your city, county or state. Some waiting lists have preferences for survivors of natural disasters. If you qualify for this preference you may move up the waiting list more quickly. Check with the housing authority to see if they have this preference. More information about preferences can be found here.

    Project-Based Section 8

    Project-Based Section 8 provides rental assistance for apartments in affordable housing communities owned by private landlords. Tenants pay a portion of their monthly income for rent and HUD pays the property owner a rental subsidy. Project-Based Section 8 owners can provide vacant units to households who are not Section 8-eligible. However, the owner does not collect the Section 8 assistance payment from HUD and the tenant would have to pay the full rent. The tenant can use FEMA rental assistance to help pay the rent in these properties. You should contact the owner or property management company to see if they will accept displaced households and FEMA rental assistance.

    For more information about how to apply for Project-Based Section 8, read Affordable Housing Online’s Project-Based Section 8 Guide.

    Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)

    Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) properties can house people displaced by natural disasters. LIHTC provides owners with tax credits so that they can develop apartments with rents affordable to low income households. Properties may include a mix of low-rent and market-rate apartments. The IRS allows LIHTC owners the option to seek authorization from their state Housing Finance Agencies to serve households displaced by disasters even if they do not meet the LIHTC eligibility requirements. The IRS provides the owners with regulatory waivers to make this more attractive for owners, but LIHTC owners are not obligated to accept displaced households as tenants. LIHTC properties anywhere in the country, even outside of the declared disaster areas, can use this option and provide vacant apartments to disaster survivors. You should check with the property owner or property management company to see if they will accept displaced households and FEMA rental assistance.

    For more information about how to apply for LIHTC housing, read Affordable Housing Online’s LIHTC Guide.

    You can search for listings of affordable apartments in your area here.

    Step 4: Get emotional support, if needed.

    If you need emotional support, you can talk to a professional at the Disaster Distress Line by calling 1 (800) 985-5990, or text “talkwithus” to 66746. Again, be patient. It might take a few moments to get the chance to speak with someone.

    Step 5: Be aware of con artists and scams.

    In the wake of a disaster, con artists and scammers will try and profit during the confusion. You will likely see many offers of help online and by phone, often requesting a fee to facilitate processing or registration. You should ignore these kinds of offers. You never need to pay a fee to apply for federal disaster assistance. FEMA will have information on rumors for a specific disaster area on its Press Releases page here.