Renters Can Apply for FEMA Assistance
Renters, your FEMA assistance is called Individual Assistance or IA. FEMA can and should offer you grants to replace some of the items you have lost. This is not a substitute for renters insurance and this is not going to make you whole again.

By Murray Wennerlund published 2-21-2021 updated 4-25-2021

Renters Can Apply for FEMA Assistance

Federal grants can help pay for temporary housing if a renter or homeowner is unable to return to a disaster-damaged home. The initial rental grant is for a 60-day period and can be reviewed for further assistance.

Be sure you are aware of the deadline to register for FEMA assistance.


If a Federal Disaster has been declared and Individual & Household Programs (IHP) and/or Individual Assistance (IA) is approved by the declared disaster you can select to apply only for the grants and avoid the SBA low interest loan that we call disaster debt burden. The sequence of disaster delivery that FEMA and Congress created decades ago has all those without insurance applying to the SBA first before FEMA processes grants. The goal of congress is to have the disaster victim take on as much of the disaster debt as possible before using US taxpayers money to assist. If you are below 120% AMI for your area you should avoid adding any additional debt to yourself and your household.

You can and should only apply for grants in the first weeks and month of post disaster. It will benefit you if you are very low income or low income to tell them up front you are in need of grants to be able to recover basic needs.


Renters as well as homeowners may also qualify for grants for essential personal property and other disaster-related expenses. These may include repairing or replacing:

  • Furniture, appliances, clothing, schoolbooks and supplies.

  • Occupational tools and other job-related equipment required by an employer as a condition of employment.
  • Independent Contractors - Self Employed Individuals my ask for Other Needs Assistance (ONA) as well as IA to replace items damaged by the disaster or a cause created by the disaster. ONA can replace vehicles, tools and supplies. This program is designed to assistance low to moderate income households and individuals. FEMA typically doesn't offer ONA but you can request it to replace or repair work related items.
  • Primary vehicles

  • Medical and dental bills

Editors Note: FOOD Assistance is not a task that FEMA manages. They will setup temporary distribution centers for water and ice but your MRE's or fresh meals provided by the Faith Based Community will be functional under HUD, USDA and other federal programs your state will have access to. You can ask FEMA for a resource list but it's best to call the United Way (211) and other not for profits in your area for food distribution. Food Voucher programs from USDA will be provided by your state and your state will be reimbursed via FEMA or USDA. This includes EBT and SNAP. You should ask during your calls to FEMA if they are supplying lists and locations for food pick up. 

Editors Note: Disaster Unemployment Assistance will be available to you and your state by now should be setup to manage DUA because of the Pandemic. If you are an independent contractor or your place of employment was closed as a result of the disaster you should file for DUA under your federal declared disaster. Contact your state unemployment office for application filings. No waiting period is required for disaster unemployment.

Disaster victims can register with FEMA the following ways:

  • Visit (Recommended)

  • Download the FEMA App (Not recommended)

  • Call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585. Multilingual operators are available. The toll-free numbers are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. local time, seven days a week. (Recommended after you have completed the online application.)

Disaster victims should check on the status of your application ever other day.

FEMA will US Postal mail you a letter with your status and/or awarded grant.

You must be able to receive postal mail. If you feel you will have a problem receiving postal mail make other arrangements but always use the physical address you were living at prior to the disaster and during the disaster event.

You will have limited time to appeal any FEMA determination that you feel is not helping you. FEMA has it's strict policies and you should be aware of the first policy, "Denied" it's one simple process, to deny your claim for assistance or to offer something that will not work for you and your household.

Read over the FEMA section to learn more about FEMA the Agency from a Disaster Victims point of view and learn where to find resources that can help you alone your disaster recovery path.

Editors Note: If you are not the legal owner of the rental property then do not repair the structures on the property. If damage was caused by the disaster and you repair the damage FEMA will not reimburse you if you are not the title owner of the property. The property will have insurance, the owner of the property will file an insurance claim. FEMA will assist the property owner if damages were not covered by insurances and other assistance doesn't cover the same unmet needs.