This page provides program guidance and information about the declaration process (reporting damages, assessment criteria, and disaster recovery centers & joint field offices) about FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program. For more information on FEMA disaster assistance programs for residents and survivors, see FEMA Individual Assistance: Individuals and Households.

FEMA Individual Assistance Program

Following a large disaster, the President may award a federal Major Disaster Declaration for the state or affected counties. Depending on the severity and magnitude of the event and the damage, the major disaster declaration may include Individual Assistance (IA), which includes Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Individuals and Households Program. Under this program, disaster assistance may be provided as financial or direct assistance to individuals and families whose property has been damaged or destroyed as a result of the federally-declared disaster, and whose losses are not covered by insurance.

The Individuals and Households Program has two components:

  • Housing Assistance (HA), which­­­ includes:
    • Temporary housing
    • Lodging expenses reimbursement
    • Repairs and replacement
    • Permanent or semi-permanent housing construction
  • Other Needs Assistance (ONA), which includes:
    • Medical and dental expenses
    • Funeral expenses
    • Personal property
    • Transportation
    • Other expenses or serious needs

Reporting Damages to Residences and Businesses

The impacted public should report disaster damages to their local emergency management director. Local officials compile damage assessment information, using information both reported to them by the public and from their own damage assessments. Local officials then document the information on specified forms and send it to the MEMA Disaster Recovery Unit for analysis. This process is called the “Initial Damage Assessment." MEMA may determine that the damages are significant enough to warrant a request for Federal disaster assistance. MEMA and state officials will then ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the local communities, as appropriate, to validate reported damages in a process known as a “Preliminary Damage Assessment”. Determining which type of assistance the local jurisdiction may be eligible for depends on reliable damage assessment information, submitting the appropriate forms and providing that information within specified time-frames and guidelines.

Assessment Criteria

Individual Assistance assessments are not based on monetary thresholds, but instead are based on the severity and magnitude upon the impacted community. The following are six general Code of Federal Regulation guidelines that must be followed:

  • Concentration of damage:  Evaluation of the concentration of damages to individuals and households.
    • Usually defined by specific geographic areas (e.g., counties, cities, towns, villages, etc.)
    • Evaluation of damages (e.g., homes, business, schools, medical facilities, housing/rental options, etc.)
  • Trauma:  Evaluation of the degree of trauma such as stress and physical trauma (e.g., death and injuries).
    • Disruption of community functions and services (e.g., schools, bus services, shopping, churches, medical facilities, etc.)
    • Extensive damages to businesses and/or economic injury to local commerce.
    • Emergency needs (e.g., power outages, water contamination, fuel, disease, environmental concerns, etc.)
  • Insurance:  Evaluation of the levels of insurance (e.g., percentage of homes insured, underinsured, or not insured).
  • Special populations:  Evaluation of impoverished levels, elderly, disabled, and language issues.
  • Voluntary agency assistance: Evaluation of voluntary help with recovery (e.g., staffing, authorities, and financial capabilities).

Disaster Recovery Centers and Joint Field Office

When a federal Disaster Declaration is declared, MEMA and FEMA jointly administer programs in a Joint Field Office (JFOs). To assist the public in obtaining information, Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) may be established in or near the affected area. The location(s) of these centers will be publicized when they are established.

For questions or additional information, contact MEMA's Recovery Unit Staff.