Average FEMA Payment and How To Make a Claim

Disaster area with high water sign
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Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may provide assistance in disaster situations when there is damage that is not covered by your insurance policy. Homeowners, renters, and business owners may be eligible for FEMA assistance and payments when they are in a designated or officially declared disaster area.

If you are thinking about making a claim for water damage not covered by insurance, or damage caused by a disaster like a hurricane, flood after a wildfire, or flood-related water damage, FEMA has a claims handbook that may be a good resource for you. You can also learn more about general insurance claim basics.

Average Claim Payments Through FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program

Below is an overview of the most recent available data for the average claim payments made by FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program.

Average Claims Paid By the National Flood Insurance Program (1980-2018)
Year Average Claim Payment 
1980 $5,497
1985 $9,521
1990 $11,371
1995 $20,749
2000 $15,384
2005 $83,198
2009 $25,133
2010 $26,529
2011 $31,053
2012 $62,674
2013 $27,185
2014 $29,459
2015 $39,861
2016 $62,247
2017 $91,735
2018 $42,580

What Is the FEMA Claims Process?

In order to file a FEMA claim successfully and get the outcome you want, it's important to complete the following steps.

1. Register Your Claim With FEMA

When you apply for emergency assistance from FEMA, you'll need to ensure your request is the result of a federally declared disaster. If you apply online, you'll have to enter your ZIP code in order to link your claim to the disaster at hand.

If the website is overwhelmed, or you prefer to apply for assistance via phone, you can also contact FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). You can call 800-462-7585 for TTY assistance.

2. Contact Your Insurance Company

If you have home, flood, and/or other types of disaster insurance, you'll next want to contact your insurance company or agent to report your claim and loss damage, just as if it were any other claim.

Keep in mind that FEMA will not cover anything your insurance already covers, but it may be able to pick up where your insurance leaves off.

3. Take Photos of Damage

Take photos of any damage inside and around your property. You will need all the evidence and proof you can get, so be diligent during this process.

4. Meet With an Insurance Adjuster

An insurance adjuster will be assigned to you, and you should hear from them within 24 to 48 hours to schedule a visit to your property. They will help in the collection of information for the claims process, as well as documenting your claim. The adjuster will not approve or decline coverage to you directly or tell you about other forms of assistance you may qualify for.

5. Collect Relevant Documents

Having all documents relevant to your claim ready—such as receipts, photos, estimates, etc.—speeds up the claims process. Your adjuster can also help guide you by explaining what you will need to provide.

6. Get a Proof of Loss Statement

A proof of loss is your sworn statement about the amount of money you are claiming and usually includes supporting documentation. Your insurance adjuster may provide the proof of loss form and help you complete it if necessary. You will need this to get paid.

Tip

You must provide your signed proof of loss within 60 days. In exceptional circumstances, FEMA may allow for extensions, but you should be sure and verify your deadline for providing your proof of loss with your adjuster and insurance company.

What Types of Costs Are Covered by FEMA?

Below are the four types of costs covered by FEMA:

  1. Temporary housing
  2. Emergency home repairs
  3. Personal property
  4. Medical, dental, funeral expenses

Housing Coverage and Eligibility

If you do not have the means to provide for your temporary housing, you may qualify for the FEMA Assistance to Individuals and Households program.

Note

During disaster situations, it's important to separate facts from rumors. One such rumor is that FEMA will pay hotel costs for those who have evacuated if you simply call their contact number. However, this is not true. FEMA may cover those who are eligible and have correctly applied for assistance, but you should not book a hotel and automatically assume FEMA will pay for it. 

Renters may apply for a grant from FEMA to replace damaged personal contents if not insured by their primary insurance coverage and may also qualify for a Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan.

Waiting Periods

The first step in getting paid is collecting all the necessary documentation needed for your proof of loss. Once your proof of loss is signed and provided to the adjuster, they can get started on the claim payment process.

It may take a while for you to get paid on a FEMA claim, but you can request an advance or partial payment if needed.

How Payments Are Calculated

The claim payment is based on your actual loss and damage declared in your proof of loss. The sooner you submit proof of loss, the faster you receive payments.

If you discover additional damage after you submit your proof of loss, you should contact your adjuster and insurance company to request additional payments by submitting another proof of loss within the 60-day limit.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do you have to pay back FEMA?

FEMA grants do not have to be repaid, and the amount given is not taxable. The total that you receive is what FEMA deems is essential and probably won't cover all of the losses after a disaster. The money granted is meant to serve as a starting point to get you back on your feet.

Who qualifies for FEMA grants?

If your home recently suffered damage from a disaster, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Suppose your primary residence incurred damages in an area that has since been declared a disaster area by the federal government and is now uninhabitable. In that case, you most likely are eligible for a FEMA grant. It's important to note that you must file a claim with your insurance first. If you still don't receive the funds necessary, then consider applying for the program.