Federal Assistance

For federal disaster assistance to become available to homeowners and renters, a disaster event must cause widespread, severe damage to a significant number of personal residences, and most damage must have been uninsured.

After initial response efforts, your community must determine the amount of damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure. Your locality must submit an initial damage assessment to the Virginia Emergency Operations Center, usually within 72 hours.  If the damage appears significant, then a team of state and federal personnel may visit the area to perform additional assessment.

If the damages appear to meet federal criteria, the governor may request a presidential declaration. Not all disaster events result in a governor’s request. Only the president of the United States has the authority to approve the request, and an approval is not automatic. Many disasters in Virginia have not received a federal declaration.

A federal declaration must include the locality’s name for it to receive aid. There are two main types of federal assistance for individuals and households. Your locality may also be eligible for the Public Assistance program, which reimburses local and state governments and certain private nonprofits for the expenses involved in response and recovery efforts.

The majority of assistance to individuals and businesses comes through low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration.  Individuals or businesses that register for assistance will be asked to fill out an application for an SBA loan.


It takes time for localities and the Commonwealth to collect the information needed to request a federal disaster declaration, and the request may be denied.  If you need assistance immediately following a disaster, dial 2-1-1 or telephone your local American Red Cross chapter if you have needs immediately following a disaster.  Only dial 911 for a life-threatening emergency.

  • Virginia 211 can connect you with voluntary and state agencies that can assist you.
  • American Red Cross assistance may take the form of small emergency cash grants and free temporary lodging.  The ARC also makes referrals to other nonprofit, government and faith-based agencies that provide assistance beyond what the ARC can provide.