New Individual Assistance (IA) Disaster Recovery Guide Published

FEMA has changes to how IA is administered.

It can be hard to keep up with changes when there is “movement” and updates across the board. Here’s the latest for new rules and procedures for individual assistance that helps families impacted by disasters.

I would add that this is the program most misunderstood by the general public. The impression is that after a disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is going to come in and make communities whole again — which is not true. Eligibility and what insurance you have all comes into play. The maximum amount that can be paid is $34,900. This has crept up over the years. I remember when it was under $20,000.

The fact is that the maximum is rarely paid out. The numbers I’ve seen for the first few months of 2019 were ranging between $16,000-$27,000.

See the news release below:

FEMA Updates the Individual Assistance Program and Policy Guide

FEMA has updated the Individual Assistance Program and Policy Guide (IAPPG), a comprehensive guide for all FEMA Individual Assistance programs. The updated IAPPG Version 1.1 includes several changes that incorporate additional assistance for disaster survivors, as authorized in the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018, aligns policy to current processing guidance, addresses lessons learned from recent disasters and demonstrates FEMA’s commitment to providing assistance to under-served communities.

Major updates to the guide include:

  • Clarifying assistance available to applicants residing in non-traditional housing.
  • Delegating authority for rental assistance rate increases.
  • Detailing new authorization and eligibility criteria for Critical Needs Assistance.
  • Updating the real property verified loss threshold for direct housing referral criteria to $12 per square foot, from the previous $17,000 threshold, to capture a wider range of survivor circumstances regardless of event type, location, or size of their dwelling.
  • Changes authorized by the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018, include:
  • Separate financial assistance maximum award amounts for Housing Assistance and Other Needs Assistance.
  • Updated Multi-Family Lease and Repair property eligibility requirements.
  • Specific disaster-damaged accessibility items covered under Home Repair or Personal Property Assistance are not limited to a financial maximum award. This means a survivor who lost their wheelchair would not have to decide between their critical equipment and housing repairs.
  • Increases to the Group Flood Insurance Policy coverage and premium.
  • Waiver authority for debts meeting specific criteria.

The guide provides a comprehensive policy resource for all stakeholders engaged in post-disaster recovery and can be found online at This version applies to all disasters declared on or after May 26, 2021 and will supersede the previous version of the IAPPG published in March 2019.
Eric Holdeman is a nationally known emergency manager. He has worked in emergency management at the federal, state and local government levels. Today he serves as the Director, Center for Regional Disaster Resilience (CRDR), which is part of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER). The focus for his work there is engaging the public and private sectors to work collaboratively on issues of common interest, regionally and cross jurisdictionally.
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