4 Disaster Relief Resources for You and Your Family

The end of August commemorates the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. Almost a decade later, memories of Katrina’s effects come to mind in the neighboring city of Baton Rouge, as the aftermath of recent flooding continues to affect the area. Benefits.gov and its Partner website, DisasterAssistance.gov, managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), are here to help you find resources that are available to you and your loved ones. If you are in an area that has been affected by a Presidentially-declared disaster (you can confirm your location’s status here), check out these four essential disaster relief resources and programs you can use to help get through a disaster.

  1. Disaster Unemployment Assistance – If you have become unemployed as a direct result of a major, presidentially-declared disaster, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) offers unemployment benefits for individuals who: no longer have a job, are unable to reach their place of work, cannot work due to damage to the place of work, are seeking work due to the death of their head of household, or cannot work because of a disaster related injury. Once a disaster strikes, states will announce the availability of unemployment assistance; in order to file a claim, survivors must contact their State Unemployment Insurance agency.
  2. Disaster Legal Services – In the midst of a disaster, it’s important to know your legal rights as a survivor. Low-income individuals can access free legal assistance through the Disaster Legal Services program offered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  If you live in a Presidentially-declared major disaster area, you may be eligible for counseling and advice, referral to legal services, and legal representation in cases that don’t generate a fee. The Disaster Legal Services program can help with things like insurance claims, loss of property, new wills, home-repair, and more.
  3. Home and Property Disaster Loans – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides affordable, timely, and accessible financial assistance to homeowners and renters located in declared disaster areas. You can be eligible to receive low-interest, long term loans for losses not covered by insurance or other forms of recovery assistance. Homeowners can apply for up to $200,000 to replace or repair homeowners’ primary residence to its pre-disaster condition. Renters can borrow up to $40,000 to replace damaged or destroyed property. You can apply online or in person at any FEMA-State Disaster Recovery Center or SBA Disaster Loan Outreach Center.
  4. FEMA Housing Portal ­– If you or a loved one has been displaced by a disaster, the FEMA Housing Portal can help you find a place to live. This online portal consolidates rental resources to help survivors find rental units that meet their needs. You can select different options to refine your needs by unit type, accessibility needs, income restrictions, pet needs, and more. No application is required to use this portal, and you can start your search for housing by visiting the FEMA Housing Portal website.

DisasterAssistance.gov provides comprehensive disaster relief resources and timely news and updates for those in need. Launched in 2006, FEMA, under DHS, created this one-stop shop to improve survivor access to disaster information and make applying for assistance easier. The site allows you to find and apply for disaster assistance, locate emergency shelter in your area, find your loved ones and much more. You can view these and other relevant benefits to help you get through a disaster by visiting Benefits.gov and viewing the Disaster Relief category page.

For information on other resources, or to see what benefits you may be eligible to receive, take our Benefit Finder pre-screening questionnaire.

Disaster Relief