Individual and Small Business Assistance

We're creating a new Individual Assistance Program

Disaster recovery in Washington state is a critical aspect of ensuring the resilience of its infrastructure and communities in the face of disaster. From earthquakes to wildfires, the Evergreen State faces a diverse range of threats that necessitate robust recovery plans and resources. Our Washington Administrative Code (WAC) for Individual Assistance (IA) plays a pivotal role in this process by establishing guidelines and protocols for state funded disaster recovery. We are excited to present this program to the public and invite you to attend our public hearing in person or virtually on Monday, July 1, 2024.

If you would like to provide written testimony on our program, you will find the full WAC and a Form survey listed below. We will accept comments until 5pm PST on Monday, July 1, 2024

Read the full WAC here (PDF)
Testimonial Form

Join the public hearing virtually on Monday, July 1, 2024 at 3:30 p.m. PST - Join the meeting now

Join the public hearing in person - 3:30 p.m. PST in the Columbia Room of the Capitol Building iin Olympia.

The Washington Emergency Management Division Human Services Program works with Federal, State, and Local partners to support disaster preparedness and recovery for Washington’s individuals, households, and businesses. Programs include:

  • The Individual Assistance Program (IA): IA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) program to support individual and business recovery and is authorized through a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration. The IA program has multiple components including cash assistance and crisis counseling, a detailed declaration process and benefits that vary depending on several factors. For more information, please click here.
  • The Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Loan Program: SBA disaster loans are available even without a Presidential Disaster Declaration and are a great tool to provide low-interest loans to individuals, families, businesses and organizations that suffer physical or economic loss due to a disaster or other disruption. For more information, please click here.
  • Limited English Proficiency Program: The LEP program supports language accessibility for individuals, families and businesses by working with state and local governments and community organizations to promote preparedness activities in communities around the state. For more information, please click here.
  • Disaster Resilience, Recovery and Restoration: Disaster Recovery includes both pre-disaster recovery planning and post-disaster recovery to re-envision and restore a community. Technical assistance and information is available for local governments, special districts, and organizations. Please click here for more information.

The Human Services Program offers training to local jurisdictions in the Individual Assistance and Small Business Administration Programs as well as technical assistance in developing Disaster Recovery programs and Limited English Proficiency and Access and Functional Needs outreach and support strategies. For training, questions, or other assistance, please contact the Human Services Program Manager (below).

Individual Assistance, SBA, other Human Services Programs

Taylor Dietz
Human Services Program Manager
(253) 512-7028

Immediate Emergency Assistance

The American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other voluntary organizations can and will provide immediate aid in the way of mass care (sheltering and feeding), medical assistance, animal control and sheltering, child care, clothing, clean-up help, transportation help and some personal property assistance. This assistance is available upon the request of the individual or government agencies during any significant emergency, though capacity varies from community to community. To learn more about Washington Voluntary Organizations, please visit the Washington Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (WAVOAD) website .

Individual Assistance Program

The Individuals and Households Program consists of Housing Assistance and Other Needs Assistance.  Housing Assistance helps disaster survivors with housing needs and is administered and fully funded by FEMA. Other Needs Assistance provides disaster assistance awards for eligible medical, dental and funeral expenses, as well as personal property, transportation and other necessary expenses or serious needs. The Other Needs Assistance program is administered by the state and funded 75 percent by FEMA and 25 percent by the state. The maximum grant limit is currently $42,500 for housing assistance and a separate maximum grant limit of $42,500 for other needs assistance. FEMA must annually adjust the maximum amount for assistance provided under the Individuals and Households Program to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index. However, it is important to note that the average award from these programs is very small in comparison to the maximum available. Eligibility for assistance in based upon essential needs as determined by a FEMA inspection. The program, by design of Congress, only provides limited assistance to help an individual or household on the road to recovery. As noted, private insurance is the best bet to hedge the financial loss created by disaster.

Housing Assistance

Eligible individuals may receive financial assistance to rent alternate housing, pay for short-term transient accommodations, repair owner occupied private residences and to replace owner-occupied private residences. FEMA may provide direct housing assistance in the form of temporary housing units that FEMA purchases or leases for disaster victims.
The following are the general types of housing assistance:

  • Temporary / Rental Housing —  Financial Assistance (Limited to 18 months our up to the maximum award, whichever comes first)
    • Homeowners or renters may qualify.
    • Provides alternate short-term living arrangements if the primary residence is uninhabitable; and insurance does not cover.
    • Applicants are certified for an initial time period and then must present justification to FEMA for additional periods.
  • Repair / Replacement / Construction —  Financial Assistance (Limited to the maximum award)
    • Purpose is to return an unlivable primary residence to a state of repair that will allow it to be safely occupied.
    • Homeowners may have more expansive rebuilding goals that are beyond what a repair grant will cover.
    • Financial assistance for repair expenses beyond what home repair grants will cover may come from the SBA.
    • Construction is limited and typically intended for insular or remote areas.
  • FEMA Housing Units -- Direct Assistance (Limited to 18 months our up to the maximum award, whichever comes first)
    • When there’s not enough rental properties available, FEMA may provide a mobile / modular housing unit.
    • Although housing units are usually for homeowners, renters may also receive units.
    • Housing units may be placed on a homeowner’s land, provided certain conditions are met.
    • Intended to be temporary and sold via online public auctions conducted by the General Services Administration.

Other Needs Assistance

For the most part, the only way to get assistance from Other Needs Assistance is to have a disaster need not covered by a Small Business Administration loan or be determined ineligible for an SBA loan. Other Needs Assistance awards are available to qualified individuals and families to meet serious, disaster-related needs and necessary expenses for which assistance from other federal, state or voluntary agency disaster assistance programs is unavailable or inadequate. Typically, these needs fall into the categories of medical, dental, and funeral expenses, as well as personal property, transportation and other necessary expenses or serious needs resulting from a major disaster.

Common Eligible Expenses, Restrictions, and Criteria:

  • Qualifying rooms must be essential (e.g., kitchen, living room, occupied bedrooms and bathrooms).
  • Not intended for non-essential items (e.g., recreational, antiques/collections, entertainment systems, etc.).
  • Not intended for businesses or losses covered by insurance.
  • Not eligible until Small Business Administration loans are pursued first (i.e., SBA will refer if denied or ineligible or more aid is needed).
  • Funeral expenses are handled with sensitivity and up to ~$10,000 with receipts and documentation.
  • Medical and dental expenses must be as a result of the disaster and not covered by insurance.
  • Moving and storage expenses are intended for temporary needs and not for relocation purposes.
  • Child care expenses are handled with sensitivity and on an individual basis.
  • Tools are eligible but must be required for work, not self-employment.
  • Personal vehicles are based on a FEMA inspection and up to $9,000 with receipts and documentation.
  • Vehicle owners must have existing proof of registration and liability insurance - this is a state requirement.
  • Miscellaneous (e.g., marine radio, motorcycle & bicycle helmets, air purifiers, chain saw, space heater, tarps, etc.).
  • Wet/dry vacuums are eligible for renters only.
  • Generators and fuel are eligible for documented medical needs only.

Other Programs

Other programs managed by other agencies are generally made available during Presidential Disaster Declarations. These include:

  • United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency Loans
  • Department of Employments Services Disaster Unemployment Assistance
  • Temporary Tax Relief from the Department of Revenue and Internal Revenue Service
  • Housing grants through the Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Crisis Counseling through the Department of Social and Health Services

Individual Assistance Declaration Process

Individual Assistance declarations are rare and are based on a variety of criteria, focusing primarily on three areas:

  • Concentration of damages and regional ability to recovery, measured through average income and recent disasters
  • Uninsured losses and insurance coverage in the impacted area
  • Trauma (deaths and injuries)

The State of Washington, working with federal and local partners, conducts a damage assessment following major disasters in order to prepare and submit a request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to FEMA. The request process can be subjective and is rare because most disasters, fires and floods in Washington state, are usually ineligible due to high rates of insurance coverage.

Reporting Damages to Residences and Businesses

The impacted public must report disaster damages to their local city/county emergency management agency. In turn, local officials document the information on specified forms and send it to the Washington Emergency Management Division for analysis. This process is called the "Initial Damage Assessment." The Washington Emergency Management Division may determine that the damages are significant and warrant a request for Federal disaster assistance. Washington Emergency Management Division officials will ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration and the local jurisdiction, as appropriate, to validate reported damages. Determining which type of assistance the local jurisdiction is eligible for depends on reliable damage assessment information, submitting the appropriate forms and providing that information within specified time-frames and guidelines.

Damage to a primary residence is reported on a Microsoft Excel worksheet, which can be  downloaded here Initial Damage Assessment FormBusiness economic injury is reported on a PDF file which can be downloaded here Economic Injury Worksheet. This form is used to report economic injury suffered by the business community. Please send all forms and inquiries to However, please note that when reporting damages, do not include secondary homes, recreational homes, detached garages, storage buildings and other out buildings because they are not eligible for disaster assistance of any kind.

Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Programs

Small Business Administration loans are considered the primary source of funds for disaster recovery and can be made available without a Presidential declaration. In the absence of insurance coverage, the SBA Disaster Loan Program may offer low interest loans to qualifying businesses, individuals, families and non-farm businesses to recover from the physical and/or economic impacts of an event. When the President declares a major disaster, the SBA automatically makes its low-interest loan programs available to qualifying businesses and private non-profit organizations that have suffered damages in the disaster-designated area. In major disasters some individuals may be eligible for SBA loans as well if they are in contiguous (i.e., “neighboring”) counties, depending on the circumstance. For instance, they might have suffered substantial economic injury, and/or damage to their home, personal property or businesses residing outside the declared disaster area.  Loan amounts, eligibility, and loan terms are determined by the SBA after an applicant has been approved. The types of SBA disaster loans include home and personal property, business and economic injury loans.

  • Home and Personal Property are a primary source of funding for permanent rebuilding and replacement of uninsured disaster damages to privately-owned real and/or personal property. These loans are available to qualifying homeowners, renters, and/or personal property owners. Loans for personal property include clothing, furniture and automobiles and are limited to $100,000. Real property loans are for repairing or restoring a primary home to its pre-disaster condition in compliance with current building codes or to prevent possible future disasters of the same kind from occurring and are limited to $500,000.
  • Business Physical Disaster Loans are a source of funding to repair or replace destroyed or damaged business facilities, inventory, machinery and equipment and other assets not fully covered by insurance and are limited to $2 million. Loans also are available to provide working capital during the disaster recovery period to small businesses in declared counties.
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans are a source of funding to provide necessary working capital for businesses that have suffered substantial economic injury until normal operations resume after a disaster. These loans are for small businesses, most private nonprofit organizations, and small agricultural cooperatives when unable to obtain credit elsewhere. Substantial economic injury means the business is unable to meet its obligations and to pay its ordinary and necessary operating expenses. The SBA can provide up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred.
  • Mitigation Loans may be made available to cover improvements that will protect against future damages (i.e., retaining walls, etc.). Mitigation loans are "in addition" to approved loans but can’t exceed 20 percent of the loan amount.

SBA disaster declaration criteria: At least 25 homes or 25 businesses (or a combination) have uninsured losses of 40 percent or more.  Interest Rates vary and depend on the applicant’s ability to get credit elsewhere. For example, for applicants unable to obtain credit elsewhere, the interest rate for home and personal property loans and business physical disaster loans will not exceed 4 percent. For those who can obtain credit elsewhere, the interest rate will not exceed 8 percent. For Economic Injury Disaster Loans, the interest rate will not exceed 4 percent per year. SBA disaster loans are offered with up to 30-year terms, depending on the applicant’s ability to repay the loan. Credit requirements are not as stringent as conventional loans, but applicants must have an acceptable history and the capability to repay the loan.

Limited English Proficiency Program

The Limited English Proficiency (LEP) program builds partnerships and improves trust and relationships between state agencies, local governments and community stakeholders, with the goal of improving emergency preparedness alert and warning capabilities in LEP communities.

The LEP program launched in December 2015 in areas with significant LEP populations that were impacted by the 2014/2015 wildfires: Chelan, Douglas, Kittitas, Okanogan and Yakima counties. The program is now expanding throughout the state and includes multiple languages: Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog as well as Braille.

To obtain printed all-hazards posters and fliers or to request technical assistance for your community, please contact Lewis Lujan, Limited English Proficiency Coordinator, (253) 512-7138

Some documents are available to download below:

All Hazards - Basic Brochures

All Hazards - Basic Posters