FEMA’s disaster recovery programs are split into two streams—“Public Assistance” and “Individual Assistance.” Through these programs, FEMA makes funding available to repair damaged homes, provide temporary shelter, and fund state and local agencies to deliver other critical and essential services.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a federal government agency that offers online tools, training programs, one-on-one counseling services, and funding to help small business owners start and grow businesses. It also provides several kinds of direct, low-interest loans to help individuals and businesses recover after a disaster.
The NCAPER Field Guide was created to help demystify federal disaster relief for the arts and culture sector by helping artists and arts organizations see what’s available, understand clearly what isn’t available, and decide if pursuing federal aid is a good use of time. The top programs of use to artists and arts organizations have been selected for inclusion.
The Field Guide gives a snapshot of federal disaster assistance programs that can go into effect after a presidentially declared disaster and focuses on longstanding programs that are likely to continue. It includes in-depth information about financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) along with introductory information about other federal resources that provide a mixture of financial and other assistance.
A NOTE OF THANKS
The development and writing of this Field Guide has been a labor of love on the part of many people in the field of emergency management and it could not have happened without the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. We thank numerous staff from programs within the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration who spent hours fact-checking the material pertinent to their agencies. Also, we thank our readers in the arts sector who reviewed the Guide for clarity and ease of understanding on behalf of individual artists and arts and cultural organizations. A very special thanks goes to Claudia Bach and her team from AdvisArts including Shannon Stewart and Susan Kunimatsu for working with the NCAPER Field Guide Working Group since January to create such a meaningful resource for the arts sector.
We hope that the final design format allows readers to take their own pathways to find the information needed to start the decision-making process when they are in a time of crisis or as they prepare readiness plans. The Field Guide is meant to be a starting point – a resource to inform artists and arts organizations of the possible disaster assistance they may want to pursue and where to go to ask for guidance. It is the staff from all the federal agencies mentioned in the Field Guide who will be your ultimate guides and are there to assist you before and during your journey for disaster assistance and recovery.
Extreme weather and natural and human-generated disasters require artists, cultural workers, arts organizations, and arts-related businesses to be in an ongoing state of disaster preparedness and recovery. Communities in every part of the country are now having to prepare for and respond to emergencies by learning new skills and navigating potential sources of support. The NCAPER Field Guide was created to help demystify federal disaster relief for the arts and culture sector.
Artists, arts organizations, and others working in arts, culture, and heritage face distinct issues and needs after a disaster. Artists’ financial conditions are often more precarious than those of the general population, so artists may be more vulnerable to emergencies and disasters. Arts organizations generally operate on tight budgets and are likely to have limited prepared- ness and recovery procedures. Disasters can wreak havoc on the arts and culture sector.
Knowing about and accessing disaster relief resources from the federal government feels like – and genuinely is – a stretch for most artists, cultural workers, and arts nonprofits. This is especially true in the stressful aftermath of a disaster. Resources that cater to the arts sector tend to be informational and technical. Sporadically, there may be federal relief grants directed to the arts. However, financial resources that are available to everyone after a disaster can be helpful to the arts sector. This guide aims to help artists and organizations see what’s available, understand clearly what isn’t available, and decide if pursuing federal aid is a good use of time.
This field guide gives in-depth information about financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) along with introductory information on other federal resources that provide a mixture of financial and/or informational assistance. These programs were selected because they are the top programs of use to artists and arts organizations. Within each resource, we identify whether it’s suited for individuals (artists and cultural workers) or organizations (arts nonprofits or arts-related businesses). If you are an individual artist operating as an arts-related business, you should consider programs directly targeting businesses.
We focus on the two main federal agencies that provide financial support after a disaster: FEMA and the SBA. Sections dedicated to each agency give you detailed guidance on the process of applying. Included are:
Application process descriptions
Key decision points and helpful hints
Checklists of materials you will need
Each program has a multi-step process that puts you in contact with agency representatives for the duration. These representatives will be able to provide the most detailed and up-to-date information.
Beyond FEMA and the SBA, we offer introductions to eleven other federal resources that could be relevant to your needs for financial, information, or other assistance.
The NCAPER Field Guide gives a snapshot of federal disaster assistance programs that can go into effect after a declared disaster. It does not cover federal disaster programs specifically created in response to the COVID-19 crisis, but instead focuses on longstanding programs that are likely to continue. Keep in mind that federal programs are not set in stone and are updated or changed over time. This is a snap- shot of the most relevant resources as of 2021, though there may be other federal programs of use to you. Not every resource is available after every disaster. Some programs are ongoing, but others are activated based on the specific conditions on the ground once an official disaster has been declared.
NEED TO KNOW
Presidentially Declared Disasters
A presidential declaration of disaster or emergency allows FEMA funding to be allocated to provide relief resources in areas hit by a major disaster. Most FEMA disaster support and financial resources covered within this guide require a presidential declaration to make them avail- able. Presidential declarations are requested by state, territorial, or tribal governments when their disaster response and recovery structure is not sufficient to handle the size and scope of a disaster. You can check if your county has been declared a disaster area at DisasterAssistance.gov by looking at the Currently Declared Disasters map. A presidential disaster declaration automatically activates all relevant SBA programs, though in some cases a governor can ask for an SBA agency declaration when there has not been a presidential declaration.
Designated Disaster Area and Incident Period
Declared disasters will specify a designated disaster area and a designated disaster incident period of where and when the disaster took place. If you experienced damage and loss as a result of a disaster, these two factors will determine eligibility in almost every instance of relief funding.
How FEMA and the SBA Work Together
FEMA and SBA programs are intertwined to provide a mixture of loans and grants to help individuals and businesses recover after a disaster. Tax-free funds that do not need to be paid back to FEMA generally cover the most serious and immediate needs or may be allocated to individuals that have no insurance, do not qualify for loans, and have no other resources for support. If you have decent credit and apply for assistance through FEMA, you may be referred to the SBA loan program to address property damage and ongoing costs associated with disaster disruption.
FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs)
Immediately following a presidential disaster declaration, FEMA may open Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) that act as temporary offices where you can obtain information about disaster resources and assistance with relief applications. DRCs act as clearinghouses for FEMA programs as well as programs intertwined with FEMA and other resources. DRCs also provide links to community services, voluntary organizations, and other partners. If you have no power, mailbox, or Internet access, a DRC can be an extremely helpful touchstone following a disaster.
Filing Insurance Claims
All federal financial relief programs require information about insurance coverage for damages and loss. You do not have to have insurance to apply to them, but if you have any insurance, you must first file a claim before you can apply for relief funding. The amount of insurance money you receive will be deducted from any potential relief funding. If your insurance does not cover your costs, you could receive relief funding to make up the difference. If you have no insurance, you can still apply, and these programs could be extremely helpful in covering your costs. In all instances, these programs aren’t made to completely restore your property or loss but instead focus on making things safe and sanitary. Funding cannot be used for upgrades, second homes, and so on.
Almost all of the financial assistance opportunities included in this guide begin by visiting DisasterAssistance.gov—a one-stop website to register with FEMA, describe your disaster needs, and find out what programs are available to support you. We drill down further into the application process in each program to explain what happens after you’ve landed there. Arts- related businesses (including nonprofit arts organizations) interested in pursuing Small Business Administration disaster loan programs can also start this process by going directly to the SBA.
No one likes to prepare for emergencies, but it is well proven that advance planning helps individuals, families, organizations, and businesses move more quickly toward recovery following a disaster. Resources for preparedness for artists and the arts can be found at NCAPER, CERF+ The Artists Safety Net, Performing Arts Readiness, Houston Arts Alliance, as well as at Ready.gov and state or local sources. Having access to your insurance and financial records is especially important when applying for federal aid. Consider how you can best protect those records so that they are accessible to you following a disaster, especially if you must evacuate your area.
In putting together this guide, we were continually reminded of how difficult and time consuming it can be to pursue federal resources in normal times, let alone while dealing with the personal and professional impact of a disaster. We hope this guide illuminates the steps in the process enough to make a more informed decision about whether doing so will be worth your time and effort. The process of applying for aid can be daunting. This guide is a step toward making the process more transparent and accessible and your exploration of federal aid easier.