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Disaster Assistance - Introduction

Disaster Assistance

State, Local, Tribal and Territorial governments share the responsibility for protecting their citizens from disasters, and for helping them to recover when a disaster strikes. In some cases, a disaster is beyond the capabilities of the State, Local, Tribal and Territorial governments to respond.
In 1988, the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5207, was enacted to support State, Territory, Tribal, and local governments and their citizens when disasters overwhelm them. This law, as amended, establishes a process for requesting and obtaining a Presidential disaster declaration, defines the type and scope of assistance available from the Federal Government, and sets the conditions for obtaining that assistance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the Department of Homeland Security, is tasked with coordinating the response.

Assistance Available
Not all assistance programs are activated for every disaster. The determination of which programs are activated is based on the needs found during damage assessment and any subsequent information that may be discovered.
FEMA disaster assistance falls into three general categories:

  • Individual Assistance: Aid to individuals and households;
  • Public Assistance: Aid to public (and certain private non-profit) entities for certain emergency services and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities;
  • Hazard Mitigation Assistance: Funding for measures designed to reduce future losses to public and private property.
Some declarations will provide only individual assistance or only public assistance. Hazard mitigation opportunities are assessed in most situations.