What to do after a Disaster to Maximize Federal Funding and Reimbursement

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What to do after a Disaster to Maximize Federal Funding and Reimbursement

In the hours, days and weeks following a natural disaster, documentation can have the most significant impact on the types and amount of recovery funding your community is eligible for. Proper documentation will not only help maximize your FEMA reimbursement, but it will set your community up for success in receiving other federal assistance later on, like Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) grants.

IBTS’s disaster experts provide the following tips to help ensure you have documentation and recordkeeping systems in place and in compliance with federal recovery assistance regulations.


Track all disaster-related time and cost expenditures to federal standards, or you may not be eligible for FEMA reimbursement.

  • Begin tracking hours as soon as the presidential declaration is made, as activities performed to ready your community for the storm may also be eligible for reimbursement.
  • IBTS recommends using the WH-347 form, a standardized fillable PDF payroll form recognized by every federal agency. If possible, download and save the form to multiple computers and print hard copies in case internet access becomes limited.

Take photographs or videos of all damage and debris before making repairs or removing it.

  • This goes for local governments and for homeowners. FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) can require photos of water levels at their highest, so it’s important to take photos and document in real-time.
  • Remind citizens they will need to provide FEMA with photographs of all damage and all receipts for out-of-pocket expenses to be reimbursed. Suggest that residents use their cell phones to take videos of each room from floor to ceiling to capture all damages.

Be sure each volunteer registers with your locality before providing any assistance.


Set homeowner expectations about FEMA assistance early.

  • Homeowners may expect that disaster assistance will make them whole on their losses or improve their pre-disaster conditions. Be clear that any disaster assistance they receive is intended to help them have a safe place to live.

Provide citizens with clear instructions on the FEMA Individual Assistance application process.

  • Use various forms of social media and traditional communication methods to inform citizens of the process. Ensure they have the necessary documentation to apply, including:
    • Social Security Number
    • Insurance information
    • Proof of occupancy
    • Financial information
    • Contact information
    • Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) Direct Deposit Information (optional) 


Don’t forget about debris removal monitoring.

Make sure all contracts are in 2 CFR 200 compliance.

  • Because localities can’t give preference to local companies, make sure contracts specify that the contractor is able to respond in a specified number of hours. This allows you to use a local solid waste provider while staying compliant.

Provide clear communication with homeowners on how to sort and remove debris.

  • Consider distributing FEMA’s infographic for curbside removal to residents, and remind them not to drop off debris removal at the landfill or debris management site.
  • Avoid using the landfill as a preliminary debris staging site to prevent residents from bringing debris on their own. This can cause long lines that prevent dump trucks from dropping off material and further delay picking up more debris.


If you use personnel from other jurisdictions, be sure they are covered by insurance.

  • If you haven’t already, implement an inter-local agreement or other legal document that ensures personnel such as first responders, police or public works staff from other jurisdictions or agencies are covered by insurance. If not, you may be liable by for any accidents that happen within your jurisdiction.