Financial Assistance for Disaster Relief

| 7 min read Financial Assistance

What’s your family major disaster assistance plan? If your family had to flee from a hurricane, wildfire, flood, or other natural disasters, would you be ready? What happens if you return from your evacuation and discover that your property has been damaged or destroyed? If you don’t have an insurance policy covering a specific type of damage, how will you and your family recover financially?

As we’ve seen on GoFundMe in recent years, the pace, scale, and cost of natural disasters are increasing. Crowdfunding for natural disaster recovery has become a large category on our platform, with fundraisers like Love Army for Mexico stepping up to help people recovering from disaster.

We’ve put together this recovery information to help you be prepared—or to recover and rebuild. We hope this helps. If you need help right now, one of the best options is to start a crowdfunding fundraiser.

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How to fund your post-disaster recovery

Financial assistance for major disaster events comes from a mix of public and private resources. If you didn’t have insurance, there are still several sources of financial assistance available to you—especially if the disaster was large enough to trigger federal aid programs.

1. Use available public resources

Most states have their own disaster-related assistance programs. Start by contacting your U.S. department state’s emergency management agency for more information.

If the scale of any disaster exceeds a state’s capacity to respond, your state’s governor will probably ask for federal government assistance. (Most state agencies can also help you navigate the process of applying for federal aid.) The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, offers support through the Public Assistance Program, Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, Community Disaster Loan Program, small business disaster loans, and the Individual and Household Assistance Program.

Of those four FEMA assistance programs, the Individual and Households Program is the main one providing grants directly to renters and displaced homeowners. To receive aid, you must be registered with FEMA and live in the federally designated disaster area.

Congress may also authorize tax credits and other incentives to help stimulate community rebuilding. The American Planning Association has a list of resources for community disaster recovery assistance. The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance also provides a list of federal programs for disaster recovery.

2. Get assistance for your business with an SBA disaster loan

If you’re a business owner, the Small Business Administration might offer help. Also known as the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), SBA disaster assistance offers loans for local businesses of all sizes, as well as for nonprofit organizations and landlords restoring damaged properties. SBA disaster loan application availability is usually made once a disaster like the COVID-19 pandemic has been declared.

You can also get disaster loan assistance from a number of channels other than the SBA loans disaster relief programs. One example is the Economic Development Administration, which issues grants to disaster-impacted small businesses to assist with recovery.

3. Crowdfund your recovery

If you’re recovering from a large disaster, it’s likely many of its victims are already raising funds for their recovery on GoFundMe’s crowdfunding platform. Beyond raising money, the beauty of crowdfunding is that it gives your friends and family a place to offer you words of encouragement and support.

If you run a similar fundraiser, use the name of the disaster in the title of your fundraiser. It will help people find and support you.

For a more in-depth guide to getting your disaster assistance fundraiser up and running, see Six Steps for Running a Successful Disaster Relief Fund.

Check out fundraising relief efforts and news on GoFundMe for Southern California Wildfires and the Hawaii floods to see how crowdfunding has helped individuals and families rebuild with resilience.

4. Reach out for help from nonprofits

Skip the loans and reach out to nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and foundations who also provide material and financial assistance for disasters.

FEMA’s Disaster Assistance Improvement Program gives disaster survivors information, services, and a way to apply for disaster recovery assistance. The humanitarian travel site Raptim has a useful page showing international disaster relief organizations, including the following:

  • American Red Cross: Responding to an emergency every eight minutes, the American Red Cross assists with everything from small house fires to multistate natural disasters.
  • Convoy of Hope: Based in Springfield, Missouri, Convoy of Hope is a faith-based nonprofit organization focused on disaster relief and hunger relief.
  • Direct Relief: This humanitarian aid organization operates in all 50 states and in more than 80 countries, helping people affected by poverty and disaster.
  • Heart to Heart International: Focused on delivering healthcare and wellness, Heart to Heart operates in more than 60 countries, including the US. If you need healthcare services in a disaster area, it may have mobile health clinics near you.
  • Oxfam: Disaster relief is one aspect of Oxfam’s global effort to end the injustice of poverty. In the wake of a disaster, they work to help poor communities increase their resilience and capacity for disaster response.

Develop a family disaster recovery plan

If you’re reading this before the next disaster strikes, then time is on your side. Follow these guidelines to prepare for a possible disaster. If the worst happens, you’ll be able to recover more quickly.

Save an emergency fund

  • Having an emergency fund is an important aspect of preparedness for anything life may throw at you, including a disaster.
  • Emergency funds also protect you from going into debt, especially credit card debt.
  • See Tips for Building a Healthy Emergency Fund for pointers on saving for a future emergency.

Get insured

  • Having adequate insurance coverage for floods, fires, earthquakes, and storms is an important part of protecting yourself from the financial toll of future disasters.
  • Like with SBA loan applications, several states have state-backed insurance programs that provide disaster-specific coverage to homeowners, and in some cases to renters and small businesses.
  • If you live in a floodplain, you may find it difficult to get flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program provides federal backing of flood insurance coverage to homeowners, renters, and business owners and their workers in such areas.

Secure your household

  • Bolt heavy bookshelves to the wall, secure your chimney, reinforce your foundation, and take other key steps to help prevent personal injury and property loss in the event of an earthquake.
  • Follow fire department guidelines to create a “defensible barrier” between your house and a possible fire. Keep trees, shrubs, and tall grasses a safe distance from your house, and install a fire-resistant roof.
  • Prepare your house, office and property for a flood. If flooding is likely, move rugs, furniture, electrical items, and valuables to a higher level. Place important documents and medical supplies in waterproof cases. If you’re relocating, take your pets with you if it’s safe to. If not, leave adequate food and water and move them to a safe place. Sandbag low areas around your house exterior.

Be prepared for an evacuation

  • Have a bug-out bag packed with essential clothing, food, water, medication, cash, and other crucial supplies for your family and pets. Even if you’re given only minutes to evacuate, you can grab it and go.
  • Sit down with your family to develop and agree on an evacuation plan. Your plan needs to include the possibility that you’ll be in different locations when disaster strikes. How and where will you meet up?
  • Know your neighborhood’s emergency response plan, including sheltering places.
  • If you’re given slightly more time to evacuate, you’ll have time to pack. Plan ahead of time which items you’ll take with you, and which you’ll leave behind.

Your road to recovery

Recovering from a disaster is a gradual process. When you’re intensely focused on restoring your material security, it’s easy to lose sight of your mental and physical wellbeing—take care of yourself. Communities that survive disaster can emerge stronger for it, and yours can, too. Communities, families, and individuals have relied on GoFundMe’s crowdfunding service to recover financially and emotionally from disaster. If you haven’t already, start a fundraiser to help you or those you love.

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Written by GoFundMe