Hurricanes typically result in Federally declared disasters. This mobilizes Federal resources for response and recovery, but there are other sources at the state and local level for assisting individuals and communities.

Financial Assistance for Recovery

Financial assistance may come to individuals from faith-based and charitable organizations. Such assistance does not require a Presidential declaration of disaster, and, depending on the policies of the organizations, may be available in counties that were not declared. Contact emergency management officials in your county or state to find out what assistance is being offered. EDEN provides links to state emergency management WebsitesWeb sites on each state’s page. EDEN state pages.

Federal Assistance

The most significant source of financial assistance following a Presidentially declared disaster is the federal government. FEMA, now part of the Department of Homeland Security, is charged with coordinating the federal response to requests from a state for disaster recovery assistance. The federal government helps state and local governments by assisting with response and recovery operations and providing funds to support these activities.
Following a Presidential Declaration disaster assistance is made available to help residents and local governments in the declared counties recover from the effects of the disaster. The decision to include a county in a Presidential disaster declaration is made jointly by the Governor’s Authorized Representative (typically the head of the state’s homeland security or emergency management office) and the Federal Coordinating Officer assigned by FEMA to the situation.

The announcement of a disaster declaration, which includes a list of counties being declared, is usually made by the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and published in a FEMA press release. Some types of assistance are available in counties that adjoin the declared counties. This FEMA page lists federal declarations and the counties included in each declaration; remember that counties are often added to the original declaration as damage assessments progress.

SBA’s Disaster Assistance Program is the primary federal disaster-assistance loan program for long-range recovery for private-sector, non-agricultural disaster victims… (more)

USDA offers several financial assistance programs for recovery from agricultural losses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also provides food and logistical assistance and assists state departments of agriculture in assessing agricultural and rural infrastructure damage. For example, USDA assistance may include food commodities, replacement food stamp benefits and Forest Service-managed FEMA mobilization centers. See “Help from the Department of Agriculture”, below, and the page on “Resources for Farmers and Rural Areas”.

Matters relating to a Presidential  disaster declaration (and state declarations) are managed in each state by the governor’s authorized representative. In many cases this is the state office of emergency preparedness or emergency management, the division of emergency management, or the like. It could be an Office of Homeland Security or in a department with a name less obviously related to the task, such as the Department of Community Affairs. Each of these state entities will have a structure for dealing with its counties.

Individual Assistance for Residents and Business Owners

Some federal financial assistance flows directly to individuals to cover items not covered by property, business or other insurance. Assistance is available for housing, property restoration and other needs for residents of the counties that were declared. Find out if your county was declared by visiting the FEMA Disaster Declarations page. Some forms of federal assistance are available in counties that border the declared counties.
Affected residents and business owners in declared counties are eligible to apply for a wide range of state and federal disaster assistance programs. The aid could include:

  • funding for temporary housing
  • U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA) low-interest loans for individuals and businesses to repair or replace damaged property
  • disaster unemployment assistance
  • grants for serious needs and necessary expenses not met by other programs.

Residents and business owners in the declared counties apply for assistance by calling a toll-free registration number. A special number is provided for those with a speech or hearing impairment. FEMA Process for Individuals.

U.S. Small Business Administration Assists Victims of Hurricanes

Homeowners, renters and businesses of all sizes in the areas affected by hurricanes may apply for low-interest SBA disaster loans. The process begins by registering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency; FEMA will then make loan referrals to the SBA. Businesses may download SBA’s business loan application package at
SBA provides loans for the following:

Real Property Loans up to $200,000 for homeowners to repair or restore a primary residence to its previous condition

Personal Property Up to $40,000 for homeowners and renters to repair or replace personal property such as clothing, furniture or automobiles lost in the disaster

Loans for Businesses

Physical Disaster Loans—For non-farm businesses of any size and non-profit organizations. SBA makes loans of up to $1.5 million to repair or replace damaged property, inventory and equipment.
Economic Injury Disaster Loans—Small businesses or agricultural cooperatives may be eligible for SBA assistance of up to $1.5 million if they have suffered substantial economic injury in a declared disaster area, regardless of physical damage.

In Hurricane Katrina and Rita, interest Rates were usually 4 percent for business loans and 2.68 percent for real estate and personal property loans, with up to 30-year repayment terms for those unable to obtain credit elsewhere.

Public Assistance for State and Local Governments

Federal funding is made available to affected local governments and state agencies to pay 75 percent of the approved costs for debris removal, emergency services related to the disaster, and repairing or replacing damaged public facilities, such as roads, buildings and utilities. In extraordinary circumstances the federal share may be increased to 100% or 90%, and the period covered by the assistance program can be extended by Congress.

Help from the Department of Agriculture

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers several financial assistance programs for recovery from agricultural losses. These programs are administered by the Farm Service Agency and are explained more fully on the Resources for Farms and Rural Communities page.

In addition to these, Ann Veneman, then USDA Secretary, announced in an August 16th Press Release, three programs that had been activated for Hurricane Charley and are typical of the kinds of assistance provided by USDA:
Food Safety – USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service provided public service announcement to media outlets prior to hurricane landfall. The information pertains to keeping food safe during emergency power outages. It may be accessed at For additional information on food safety during an emergency, call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854); for the hearing-impaired (TTY) 1-800-256-7072.
Food Assistance – USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service assists those affected by the hurricane by providing food at shelters and mass feeding sites, issuing emergency food stamps and, if needed, distributing food packages directly to needy households. Application for food stamp assistance is through local Florida Department of Child and Family Services offices. Additional disaster food assistance information is at:
Watershed Protection – The Emergency Watershed Protection program, administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, provides technical and financial assistance to preserve life and property threatened by excessive erosion and flooding. Information can be found at

Financial Assistance for Farms and Rural Areas

USDA Resources

Farmer and Rancher Assistance – In counties designated as primary disaster areas, as well as contiguous counties, low-interest emergency loans are available for qualified farm operators. Indemnity payments may be available for those with Federal Crop Insurance and for those covered by the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. For more information on these programs, contact your local FSA Service Center or go to For Hurricane Charley, there was $2.5 billion in federal crop insurance in place in the affected counties. Farmers should contact their crop insurance agents for specific claim information. USDA’s Risk Management Agency works closely with insurance providers to assess losses and expedite the payment of covered claims as quickly as possible.
Housing Assistance – USDA Rural Development helps borrowers who are victims of a disaster to recover from the financial hardship and to minimize potential delinquency or liquidation. For more information go to:

Rural Business Programs – Numerous USDA Business Programs can be of assistance in providing financial relief to small businesses as a result of natural disasters. For informaton visit:

Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants – Rural communities with a significant decline in quantity or quality of drinking water may be eligible for grants for emergency repairs or replacement of facilities on existing systems. Go to:
Source: USDA Release No. 0339.04 – Hurricane Charley, August 2004

Reducing Damage in Future Storms

In the weeks and months following a disaster, as you plan repairs to your home or office, consider using techniques that will make the building more resistant to floods, heavy rain and high winds. The following resources are provided by FEMA, the Institute for Business and Home Safety (an association of insurance companies), the Corps of Engineers, and others not directly associated with a land-grant university.

Hurricane resistant construction

Homebuilders Guide to Coastal Construction – FEMA produced this series of 31 fact sheets to provide technical guidance and recommendations concerning the construction of coastal residential buildings. The fact sheets present information aimed at improving the performance of buildings subject to flood and wind forces in coastal environments. Photographs and drawings illustrate National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) regulatory requirements, the proper siting of coastal buildings, and recommended design and construction practices for building components, including structural connections, the building envelope, and utilities. (FEMA 499)

Local Officials Guide for Coastal Construction – Developed to assist building officials in understanding the connection between National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) guidelines, the International Building Code, and the International Residential Code. Additionally, flood and wind provisions of both ASCE 7-05 and ASCE 24-05 are presented and discussed. The guide also explores building performance and real-life success and failures following recent storm events and recommends design and construction “best practices” where appropriate. (FEMA P-762)
Coastal Construction Manual Third Edition – The manual provides a comprehensive approach to sensible development in coastal areas based on guidance from over 200 experts in building science, coastal hazard mitigation, and building codes and regulatory requirements. (FEMA 55 FEMA 55CD)

Recommended Residential Construction for the Gulf Coast: Building on Strong and Safe Foundations – provides recommended designs and guidance for rebuilding homes destroyed by hurricanes in the Gulf Coast. The manual also provides guidance in designing and building less vulnerable new homes that reduce the risk to life and property. (FEMA 550)

Flood resistant construction

FEMA Technical Bulletins – Contains a Key Word/Subject Index that identifies topics contained in the Technical Bulletins regarding the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Floodproofing collection of the Corps of Engineers, National NonStructural/Floodproofing Committee (an https, no password required). Includes testing of materials, floodproofing techniques, how to evaluate floodproofing options, reviews of local floodproofing programs and other resources.

Wind resistant construction

Blue Sky Residential High Wind Construction Manual
Safe Rooms and Community Shelters (FEMA)
National Performance Criteria for Tornado Shelters (FEMA)
Seven Things You Need to Know before Rebuilding Your Hurricane Damaged Home (FLASH)
Programs that rate, recognize or reward hazard resistant construction
Fortified for Safer Living – (IBHS)
Community Rating System – of the National Flood Insurance Program (FEMA)

Building Performance – Research Leads to Improvement

Engineers and others involved in hazard mitigation make a practice of studying buildings after an event, to determine why buildings fail – so designs can be improved. For example, in the early days following Hurricane Charley, teams from the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS; an insurance industry association) began researching and collecting property loss information as well as providing building safety communications through the news media, member companies and directly to the public. Some of the initial observations included:

Homes built under the new Florida Building Code (since 2002) generally withstood the storm better than neighboring homes built prior to the new standards. However, the fact that strong winds persisted across the state underscored the need for maintaining strong code requirements throughout the interior of the state.

New manufactured homes built to the most recent standards also held up better than the older homes. However, add-on structures like carports, laundry rooms or porches often failed, causing damage to the home.

More recently, IBHS released a study of building performance in Hurricane Ike. The results are published in the publication, Hurricane Ike: Nature’s Force vs Structural Strength. The extensive research behind the publication, in IBHS’s assessment, advances loss mitigation objectives in several critical ways, including:

  • providing a detailed, real-world performance evaluation of superior construction techniques when tested by a truly extreme weather event;
  • setting the course for rigorous laboratory testing to explore and resolve remaining issues with specific building materials and systems;
  • proving the importance of enacting and enforcing strong, appropriate building codes – and proper elevation requirements in storm surge prone areas; and,
  • showcasing the leading edge of construction and real estate markets, i.e., developers choosing to design buildings to the highest standard, because they understand the favorable cost/benefit ratio and want to meet consumer demand for safety and durability.

Post-disaster assessments of building performance are also conducted by FEMA’s Mitigation Assessment Teams (MATs), formerly called Building Performance Assessment Teams (BPATs). The MAT Program is an award-winning program combining resources from a Federal, State, Local, and Private-Sector Partnership to study building performance as part of FEMA’s national mitigation effort. The first widely publicized BPAT Report was for Hurricane Andrew. BPAT reports on natural disasters include: Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Iniki, Hurricane Opal, Hurricane Fran, Hurricane Georges in Puerto Rico, Hurricane Georges in the Gulf Coast, Midwest Tornadoes of May 3, 1999. More recently, the MAT teams have produced reports for Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Hurricane Ike (2008).
The collection of B-PAT and MAT reports, and the associated Recovery Advisories, is maintained at . The Institute for Business and Home Saftey routinely conducts studies to help identify loss sources and offer solutions. It provides that information on its Report and Studies index.

The Corps of Engineers, National Nonstructural/Floodproofing Committee publishes its resources on a security-enabled web site: . Most browsers will require you to deliberately bypass the security block. Among the publications of the committee is the 1998 “Floodproofing Successes and Failures”, which documents the perfomance of various non-structural measures.

Financing a Hazard Mitigation Project

Federal Grants to Communities for Mitigation Projects

Many communities participate in federal grant programs forprogramsfor which on-site protection of private property is an eligible activity. Programs that do not specify “flood” in the title or description can be used to reduce future damage from high wind, earthquake or other hazards. These programs fund such flood damage prevention measures as elevation or relocation of floodprone buildings, purchase of floodprone properties, and, for non-residential buildings, dry floodproofing. Drainage improvements are also eligible.

The two primary federal funding sources for hazard mitigation are the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program (PDM). In addition, for floods only, there is the Flood Mitigation Assistance Program (FMAP or FMA). All three programs are administered in a state by the state hazard mitigation office; this is often in the state’s office of emergency preparedness, but may be elsewhere. Both provide 75% of eligible project costs; 25% non-federal funds are required. Non-federal funds may come from the state, community or property owner. All projects must be economically justified.

  • HMGP is a post-disaster funding program; funds are available only after the state has received a Presidential disaster declaration for a disaster. Applicant communities do not have to be in a declared county. The size of the mitigation fund can be as much as 7.5% of the federal share of certain disaster costs; bigger disasters generate bigger pots of mitigation money for the state. A state or community that has a FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation Plan may qualify for funding at up to 20%, rather than 7.5%. There have been attempts in 2003 and 2004 to do away with the HMGP in favor of PDM.
  • PDM Through the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (DMA2000), Congress approved creation of a national pre-disaster hazard mitigation program to provide a funding mechanism for all hazards that is not dependent on a Presidential disaster declaration. For FY2002, $25 million was appropriated for the new grant program. For FY2003, $150 million was appropriated, with a priority being established to mitigate repetitive loss structures (those that have filed multiple flood insurance claims).
  • FMA is funded annually by congressional allocation and is distributed among the states in proportion to their number of flood insurance policies and claims. The Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2004 raised funding of this program from $20 million per year to $40 million per year beginning in 2005.

For all three of these programs, funds go ultimately to the county or local community, which must administer both the funds and the mitigation project. Individuals cannot apply directly to the state or federal government for these funds, they must apply to their county or local government. In DMA2000 Congress also stipulated that in order to qualify for hazard mitigation project funds state and counties must have a FEMA approved (DMA compliant) hazard mitigation plan. The effective data for this requirement was set originally as November 1, 2003, but was extended first to November, 2004 and finally to May, 2005.