The Federal Emergency Management Agency does not require those applying for disaster assistance to have homeowners insurance. If you do have homeowners insurance though, FEMA does require you to file a claim with your insurance company before applying for its benefits. FEMA offers two permanent grant programs for disaster assistance to individuals and households and works with the Small Business Administration to offer disaster loans.
Federal Disaster Assistance
FEMA defines disaster assistance as "money or direct assistance to individuals, families and businesses in an area whose property has been damaged or destroyed and whose losses are not covered by insurance." FEMA grants programs provide funds for critical, immediate expenses but, not to rebuild or replace damaged property. The agency provide two grants via its Individuals and Households Program, while the SBA administers a low-interest loan program for rebuilding homes and replacing their contents.
To qualify for FEMA disaster assistance, your losses must occur in a county covered by a federal disaster declaration, also referred to as a presidential disaster declaration. FEMA lists these declarations by year on its website. Also, you must file a claim with your insurance company, if applicable. Individuals and families who experience disaster losses not covered by insurance may qualify for both grants in the Individuals and Households Program.
FEMA Housing Assistance
In addition to the basic qualifications, to receive "Housing Needs" funds you or someone who lives with you must be a United States citizen, a qualified alien or a non-citizen national. You must have lived in the affected home at the time of the disaster and it's where you normally reside and you can not live in the home because the disaster destroyed it, damaged it or you cannot reach it because of the disaster. This grant funds essential repairs to a home, i.e. structural, septic or sewage system, or heating or cooling repairs and may cover temporary housing. In rare cases where the home resides in a remote area and no other assistance is available, FEMA may provide funds to rebuild or replace the home.
Other Than Housing Assistance
In addition to the basic qualifications, to receive funds for "Other Than Housing Needs" you or someone who lives with you must be a United States citizen, a qualified alien or a noncitizen national. Also, you must have exhausted all other sources of assistance including any insurance coverage and Small Business Administration disaster loans and still experience serious needs or necessary expenses or serious needs. This grant funds disaster-related serious needs, such as disaster-related medical, dental, funeral and burial costs and clothing.
Small Business Administraton Loans
The SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to homeowners to repair or replace a home and personal property destroyed or damaged in a federal disaster area. Although homeowners insurance is not a requirement to qualify, if your property resides in a special flood hazard area as designated by FEMA, you must have an active flood insurance policy before the SBA will disburse your loan.
- car hotel disaster accident image by paul prescott from Fotolia.com