Disaster Legal Aid Trainings: How to Apply for FEMA Assistance

/ Blog Post

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has several individual assistance programs designed to support disaster survivors. As part of the Disaster Resilience Awareness Month training series, Equal Justice Works Fellow Hannah Dyal (she/her/hers) of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and FEMA Emergency Management Specialist Teresa Lien hosted a disaster training centered on applying for FEMA benefits.

Hannah and Teresa discussed the benefits of being prepared for disasters, the connection between preparedness and resiliency, how to apply for FEMA benefits, and the most common types of FEMA assistance available after disasters. Hannah provided a brief overview of common reasons individuals are denied FEMA benefits and shared tips on appealing those denials. While the presentation was not focused on COVID-19, Hannah and Teresa did discuss some of the adjustments that have been made to the FEMA application process due to COVID-19 safety restrictions, and how to best handle those changes.

FEMA can be one of the best ways to get quick assistance for damaged property. If a disaster survivor is prepared with the documents that FEMA will need, the FEMA application may be a simple, straightforward process. However, if a survivor is missing a necessary document or misunderstands a critical question in the application or inspection process, that person may struggle to get the right proof together and likely will be denied FEMA assistance. During this Q&A session, Hannah and Teresa discussed what documents are critical to have at the ready to complete the application.

The stress of living through a disaster or undergoing an evacuation can make it difficult for survivors to complete even basic tasks. If the survivor has lost their home and belongings, or even if they are just living in a damaged home, those tasks may become even more challenging. In addition to the stress from the traumatic event and the damage to their home, disaster survivors often must work with several different agencies and groups following a disaster to get all their needs meet. The process is confusing and difficult at the best of times. Understanding the structure of disaster recovery prior to going through that process can make the recovery less stressful and more successful overall. Here are some helpful resources that Hannah and Teresa shared for individuals looking to apply for FEMA benefits in the aftermath of a disaster:

For additional questions about this presentation, please contact [email protected] or call the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Hotline at 1-888-988-9996.

If your organization is interested in teaming up with Equal Justice Works for Disaster Resilience Awareness Month, please reach out to us at [email protected].

Disaster Resilience Awareness Month is made possible thanks to the generous support of Equal Justice Works host organizations: Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Disability Rights Texas, Lone Star Legal Aid, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc., and YMCA International Services.

The Equal Justice Works Disaster Resilience Program is funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, the Bigglesworth Family Foundation, and individual contributions.

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow