How to get a payout from FEMA for uninsured flood damage

If your house flooded and you're without flood insurance, you may be eligible for federal disaster assistance if you meet certain criteria.

Pat Howard 1600

By

Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

Updated|3 min read

Policygenius content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our editorial standards and how we make money.

Flooding affects 99% of counties in the U.S. and accounts for around 90% of the country's natural disasters. [1] While it’s clear that flooding impacts nearly every corner of the country, only around 15% of homeowners have flood insurance.

Most standard homeowners insurance policies don’t cover water damage caused by flooding, so if your home is damaged and you’re one of the 85% of homeowners without coverage, you may be left covering repair costs yourself. 

Learn more >> Guide to flood insurance facts & statistics

Fortunately, there’s at least some financial relief options for uninsured homeowners, as both FEMA and the Small Business Administration offer their own forms of aid in the wake of a natural disaster. [2]

How to get financial help if you don’t have flood insurance

If your house has uninsured flood damage and it’s located in a declared disaster area, there are a couple of government safety net programs that can provide financial relief.

  • FEMA disaster grants: FEMA grant money can be used to repair or rebuild your house to its pre-disaster condition and other necessary expenses that aren’t covered by insurance. While FEMA offers up to $36,000 for each eligible household, the average grant payment is around $5,000.

  • SBA disaster loans: If you need more financial assistance than FEMA provides, you can apply for a disaster loan with the Small Business Administration. The SBA can pay up to $200,000 to repair or replace your home, and up to $40,000 to replace your damaged belongings. Just keep in mind that it's a loan, so you’ll eventually need to pay it back.

Compare rates and shop affordable flood insurance today

We don't sell your information to third parties.

FEMA disaster grants

If you live in a federally declared disaster area, you can apply for financial assistance through FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP). These grants can help pay for everything from house repairs to additional living expenses and other expenses or needs not covered by insurance.

How does FEMA determine payouts?

The limit for FEMA IHP grants is $36,000, and money can be used for the following:

  • Home repairs: FEMA funds can be used to help cover the cost of home repairs, including floodwater removal and new flooring or drywall. Funds can also be used to pay for flood mitigation measures, including hurricane-grade roof shingles, elevation of furnaces and water heaters above ground, and elevation or relocation of electrical panels.

  • Temporary housing: If your house is unlivable due to flood damage, FEMA can pay for temporary rentals or hotel stays until your home is repaired. These funds are typically available in one- to three-month increments for up to 18 months after a federally declared disaster.

  • Other needs: Financial assistance is provided for all necessary expenses directly caused by the disaster, including medical expenses, meals, childcare costs, damage to essential vehicles, and moving and storage expenses. 

In addition to providing relief for those who don’t have flood insurance, the program can also provide additional funds to those with maxed out flood insurance coverage limits who need more money to pay for repairs. You’re also eligible for IHP money if your home was flooded but the damage doesn’t meet your policy deductible. 

Learn more >> What does flood insurance cover?

Eligibility requirements 

To receive FEMA disaster assistance, you need to be a resident of a federally recognized disaster area. After the president declares a major disaster, FEMA will then define the “disaster area,” or the county or counties eligible for federal aid. 

In addition to living in a disaster area, your home must be your primary residence, or the place you live most of the year. If the home is a seasonal residence or an investment property, you won’t be eligible for FEMA payments. 

Lastly, if you live in a special flood hazard area and you don’t have flood insurance, you’ll only be able to use FEMA disaster assistance once. After that, you’ll need to purchase flood insurance to be eligible for future disaster aid.

Learn more >> When is flood insurance required?

Compare rates and shop affordable flood insurance today

We don't sell your information to third parties.

SBA disaster loans

If FEMA grants aren’t cutting it, you can apply for a low-interest disaster loan through the Small Business Administration. 

How do SBA disaster loan payments work?

SBA disaster loan payments can help cover expenses that aren’t covered by insurance or FEMA grants. Once approved, you can use the money for the following:

  • Up to $200,000 to repair or rebuild your home. The damaged residence must be your primary home, not a seasonal home

  • Up to $40,000 to replace damaged property, including clothes, furniture, vehicles, electronics, and appliances

  • Up to $200,000 to refinance your mortgage. This option is only available if you can’t get credit elsewhere and if you plan to make repairs using the disaster loan.

Eligibility requirements

Like FEMA grants, SBA disaster loans are only available to residents of federally declared disaster areas who utilize the home as their primary residence. The loan can only be used to pay for damage to your primary residence and personal belongings. If you have a home office that you use for business purposes or to store business equipment, you’ll need to take out a separate SBA business loan.

If you’re not eligible for credit elsewhere, the maximum interest rate on SBA disaster loans is 4%. If you can get credit elsewhere, the maximum interest rate is 8%. Loan repayment terms last up to 30 years.

If you’re in need of disaster aid, you can apply for an SBA loan online, by mail, or in person at a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center. [3]

Compare rates and shop affordable flood insurance today

We don't sell your information to third parties.

Frequently asked questions

How much does FEMA pay for personal property?

With FEMA disaster grants, you can use the money to pay for essential personal property and other necessary expenses. If you’re approved for an SBA disaster loan, you can use up to $40,000 to replace damaged personal property.

Does FEMA pay for flood damage?

Yes, FEMA can pay for home repairs, personal property replacement, relocation costs, and other necessary expenses if your house is damaged by a flood. Federal aid is provided in the form of FEMA disaster grants and SBA disaster loans.

Do you have to pay FEMA back?

If you received money through FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program, you do not have to pay it back. But you do have to repay disaster loans received from the Small Business Administration.

How much does flood insurance cost?

The average cost of flood insurance in the U.S. is $738 per year, as of 2022. But your own flood insurance rates will depend largely on your home’s location and how much coverage you need.

Learn more >> The average cost of flood insurance in each state

References

dropdown arrow

Policygenius uses external sources, including government data, industry studies, and reputable news organizations to supplement proprietary marketplace data and internal expertise. Learn more about how we use and vet external sources as part of our

editorial standards.
  1. FEMA

    . "

    “Historical Flood Risk and Costs"

    ." Accessed July 13, 2022.

  2. Disaster Assistance

    . "

    Find Local Resources

    ." Accessed July 15, 2022.

  3. U.S. Small Business Administration

    . "

    Disaster Loan Assistance

    ." Accessed July 06, 2022.

Author

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

gray twitter icon linkgray linkedin icon link

Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

Questions about this page? Email us at .