January 19, 2024

FEMA: Federal Disaster Assistance Program Reforms Announced to Help Survivors Recover Faster

Planned updates to FEMA’s Individual Assistance program include quicker access to needed funds, expanded eligibility for property and home repairs, and an easier application process for survivors to jumpstart their recovery from disasters.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell announced today that FEMA is reforming its federal assistance policies and expanding benefits for disaster survivors to cut red tape, provide funds faster and give people more flexibility. 

With the increased frequency of extreme weather events fueled by climate change, these updates will provide survivors with faster and easier access to resources they need after disasters. FEMA developed these new forms of assistance based on direct feedback from survivors, and in response to threats the nation faces due to our changing climate; they will create more equitable outcomes for all communities by increasing accessibility and eligibility for post-disaster support. 

“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.”

“We are on the verge of making the most significant update to survivor assistance in the last 20 years to reach more survivors and deliver assistance faster,” said Administrator Criswell. “The limitations on federal assistance have frustrated survivors and delayed recovery for far too long. The Biden-Harris Administration was determined to remedy this situation and help reach more people — especially in communities disproportionately impacted by disasters. From quickly providing assistance to people who become displaced to simplifying the application process, we are delivering on President Biden’s commitment to empower individuals and communities so they can rebuild their lives faster after a disaster.”

FEMA has been collecting feedback for decades from disaster survivors, communities and stakeholders, including from public comments the agency solicited in 2021, on how to specifically improve the Individual Assistance program. State partners and members of Congress have echoed these concerns and pressed for simpler, more straightforward programs to assist individuals across the country as they recover. Those shared experiences serve as the foundation of FEMA’s updates.  

To benefit survivors, FEMA will: 

Establish new benefits that provide flexible funding directly to survivors when they need it most. 

Cut red tape and expand eligibility to reach more people and help them recover faster, while building back stronger. 

Simplify the application process to meet survivors’ individual needs and meet people where they are.

FEMA expects the changes to take effect for new disasters declared on or after March 22, 2024.

In addition to the planned updates, FEMA has already made the DisasterAssistance.gov and Transitional Sheltering Assistance websites more accessible and easier to navigate for survivors. 

This post was originally published here.