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Disaster Assistance for Individuals, Families and Businesses

If the State of Oregon receives a Presidential major disaster declaration that includes Individual Assistance (IA) the following programs may be activated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and others. The most recent two occasions when Oregon received an IA declaration occurred in 1998 and 2007.  
 
IA has multiple components including cash assistance and crisis counseling, a detailed declaration process, and benefits that vary depending on several factors.
 
The Individuals and Households Program consists of Housing Assistance and Other Needs Assistance.  Housing Assistance helps individuals and families affected by a Presidentially declared disaster with housing needs and is administered and fully funded by FEMA. Other Needs Assistance may provide disaster assistance awards for eligible medical, dental and funeral expenses, as well as personal property, transportation and other necessary expenses or serious needs. The Other Needs Assistance program is administered by and funded at 75 percent by FEMA; the balance of the 25 percent funding is provided by the State of Oregon. The maximum grant limit is currently $33,000 and is adjusted annually to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index. However, it is important to note that the average award from these programs is very small in comparison to the maximum available. Eligibility for assistance is based on essential needs as determined by a FEMA inspection and averages somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000. The program, by design of Congress, provides limited assistance to help an individual or household on the road to recovery.  Private insurance is the best way to hedge the financial loss created by disaster. 

Housing Assistance

Eligible individuals or families may receive financial assistance to rent alternate housing, pay for short-term transient accommodations, repair owner-occupied private residences, or toward replacing owner-occupied private residences. FEMA may provide direct housing assistance in the form of temporary housing units that FEMA purchases or leases for disaster victims.
 
The following are the general types of Housing Assistance:
  • Temporary/Rental Housing — This is financial assistance (limited to 18 months or up to the maximum award, whichever comes first). Homeowners or renters may qualify. It provides alternate short-term living arrangements if the primary residence is uninhabitable and insurance does not cover. Applicants are certified for an initial time period and then must present justification to FEMA for additional periods.
  • Repair/Replacement/Construction — This financial assistance is limited to the maximum award. Its purpose is to return an unlivable primary residence to a state of repair that will allow it to be safely occupied. Homeowners may have more expansive rebuilding goals that are beyond what a repair grant will cover. Financial assistance for repair expenses beyond what home repair grants will cover may come from the SBA. Home construction is limited and typically intended for insular or remote areas.
  • FEMA Housing Units – This “direct assistance” is limited to 18 months or up to the maximum award, whichever comes first. When there’s not enough rental properties available, FEMA may provide a mobile/modular housing unit. Although housing units are usually for homeowners, renters may also receive units. Housing units may be placed on a homeowner’s land, provided certain conditions are met. This solution is intended to be temporary; once the assistance period has ended, the units are sold via online public auctions conducted by the General Services Administration. 

Other Needs Assistance

The only ways to obtain Other Needs Assistance are to have a disaster need not covered by a Small Business Administration loan or be determined ineligible for an SBA loan. Other Needs Assistance (ONA) awards are available to qualified individuals and families to meet serious, disaster-related needs and necessary expenses for which assistance from other federal, state or voluntary agency disaster assistance programs is unavailable or inadequate. Typically these needs fall into the categories of medical, dental and funeral expenses, as well as personal property, transportation and other necessary expenses or serious needs resulting from a major disaster.
 
Common Eligible Expenses, Restrictions and Criteria:
  • Qualifying rooms must be essential (e.g., kitchen, living room, occupied bedrooms and bathrooms).
  • Not intended for non-essential items (e.g., recreational, antiques/collections, entertainment systems, etc.).
  • Not intended for businesses or losses covered by insurance.
  • Not eligible until Small Business Administration loans are pursued first (i.e., SBA will refer to ONA if denied or ineligible for a loan or if more aid is needed).
  • Funeral expenses are handled with sensitivity and up to $10,000 with receipts and documentation.
  • Medical and dental expenses must be as a result of the disaster and not covered by insurance.
  • Moving and storage expenses are intended for temporary needs and not for relocation purposes.
  • Child care expenses are handled with sensitivity and on an individual basis.
  • Tools are eligible but must be required for work, not self-employment.
  • Personal vehicles are based on a FEMA inspection and up to $7,000 with receipts and documentation.
  • Vehicle owners must have existing proof of registration and liability.
  • Miscellaneous (e.g., wet/dry vacuums, handheld radios, motorcycle and bicycle helmets, air purifiers, chainsaw, space heater, etc.).
  • Generators and fuel are generally eligible for documented medical needs only. 

Small Business Administration Assistance

The SBA Disaster Loan Program may be available even without a Presidential major disaster declaration. These programs can offer low-interest loans to individuals, families, businesses and organizations that suffer physical or economic loss due to a disaster or other disruption. 

Voluntary Agency (VOLAG) Assistance

The American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other voluntary organizations may be able to provide assistance in the way of mass care (sheltering and feeding), child care, clothing, clean-up, transportation and some personal property assistance. This assistance may be available during and following any significant emergency, although the capacity varies from community to community. Requests for such assistance should be made through your community emergency manager.
 

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