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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Help When You Need It Most

If you have lost your home in the ongoing fires, one of the first places you may turn to for financial assistance is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In order to take full advantage of what the organization has to offer, it’s good to get clear about the two types of help it offers: Individual Assistance and Public Assistance. (Apply for the former at

Individual Assistance is directly provided to eligible individuals and families who have sustained losses due to disasters.

  • Homeowners and renters in designated counties who sustained damage to their primary homes, vehicles, and personal property as a result of the recent fires may apply for disaster assistance.
  • Disaster assistance may include grants to help pay for temporary housing, emergency home repairs, uninsured and underinsured personal property losses, and medical, dental, and funeral expenses, along with other serious disaster-related expenses.
  • Disaster assistance grants are not taxable income and will not affect eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid, medical waiver programs, welfare assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, or Social Security Disability Insurance.
  • Low-interest disaster loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA) may be available for businesses of all sizes (including landlords), private nonprofit organizations, homeowners, and renters. Low-interest disaster loans help fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged real estate and personal property. Economic Injury disaster loans are available to businesses and private nonprofits to assist with working capital needs. Find out more at
  • Public Assistance can reimburse for emergency protective measures, debris removal, and infrastructure repairs or replacement needed due to disaster-related damage.
  • FEMA will provide reimbursement of at least 75 percent of eligible costs, with the state and local governments sharing the remaining 25 percent of costs. Eligible entities include state and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations, such as schools and public utility districts.
  • Although funds are awarded to government entities and certain private nonprofits, the Public Assistance program is intended to benefit everyone—neighborhoods, cities, counties, and states. Public Assistance dollars help clean up communities affected by disaster-related debris, repair roads and bridges, and put utilities and water systems back in order.