By Karen Stokes
On Friday, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell announced that FEMA is revamping its federal assistance policies.
This initiative aims to reduce red tape, accelerate fund distribution, and enhance flexibility for disaster survivors. This action is in response to the rising frequency of extreme weather events linked to climate change, these updates aim to grant survivors quicker and more straightforward access to necessary resources needed post-disaster.
FEMA developed these measures by directly considering survivor feedback and addressing climate-related threats, ultimately striving for more equitable outcomes across communities through increased accessibility and eligibility for post-disaster support.
“We went big and bold so we could break down barriers and help people recover faster. This is the most comprehensive update to our Individual Assistance Program in 20 years,” said Criswell.
Four of the biggest changes made that will change the way survivors get the benefits:
- Removing Loan Application Requirements: FEMA is removing the requirement that survivors apply for a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan before being considered for certain types of financial assistance.
- Establishing Serious Needs Assistance: FEMA is introducing a consistent cash relief program, Serious Needs Assistance, at $750 per household, to replace the Critical Needs Assistance program. This assistance will be available in all disasters receiving Individual Assistance, covering immediate expenses for sheltering, evacuation, and basic household needs, in addition to other eligible aid based on individual circumstances.
- Helping Under-insured Survivors: FEMA is simplifying insurance-related rules to aid survivors who don’t receive sufficient assistance from their insurance. The revised approach allows financial assistance, up to the $42,500 cap, to cover costs not reimbursed by insurance, including deductibles and under-insured losses, regardless of the total insurance payout.
- Creation of a new benefit called displacement assistance. Establishing Displacement Assistance: FEMA is introducing Displacement Assistance, a new benefit to address survivors’ immediate housing needs after a disaster. Eligible survivors will receive upfront funds for flexible housing options, including staying with family or friends, until they secure a rental for long-term recovery.
“In the past, the limitations of federal assistance have delayed disaster recovery for too many, especially communities that are disproportionately affected by disasters. That’s why the Biden-Harris Administration has been determined to update our programs to ensure we provide disaster assistance to the people who need it, when they need it most,” said Secretary Mayorkas. “The Department of Homeland Security interacts with more Americans on a daily basis than any other federal agency and we will continue to eliminate red tape to ensure that our services, resources, and support reaches the people we serve.”
“Our mission is to help people before, during and after disasters. We’re connecting people to the help that they need on their worst day,” Criswell said. This is something we will be able to do through our Individual Assistance Program. This program at its core is designed to provide much needed relief to disaster providers and really help jump start their recovery after a disaster. Survivors deserve better.