Disaster Relief: Definitions and Topic Table of Contents

Disaster Relief: Definitions and Topic Table of Contents

Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Inc. (“CLSMF”) helps people affected by disasters by providing free disaster recovery legal services and assistance in identifying other available aid resources.


For these purposes, a “declared disaster” requires that an emergency and major disaster declaration has been made that in turn warrants FEMA services activated. The federal statute that sets these rules comes under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5207 (“the Stafford Act”) §401. 

This statute states in part that FEMA services are only activated where a statewide or locality-specific emergency and major disaster has occurred and the President of the United States declares that a disaster exists. The decision to make the official declaration of disaster is made solely at the discretion of the President and is made following a request for such declaration by the Governor of the affected State."CLSMF is a part of a larger network of public interest law firms helping to solve legal issues for survivors of Hurricanes, Irma, Maria. 

Some things to keep in mind are the following. Immediately after a declared disaster, from one day to several weeks, you may need help keeping yourself safe and out of danger. You may need help tending to immediate medical, physical, and emotional needs; finding shelter; and confirming the safety of family, friends, and pets. You may need help determining any losses to your home, auto, or job. You may need help ensuring that you do not fall prey to scams, price gouging, or consumer fraud.  

In the short-term, after a declared disaster, for a week and up to a month, you may need help protecting your shelter & housing rights; recovering lost income & protecting your employment rights; gaining access to federal & state disaster assistance; and maximizing any private insurance options available. 

In the long-term, after a declared disaster, from six months and beyond, if you are a homeowner, you may need help understanding housing issues related to your homeowner’s insurance, FEMA assistance, repair/rebuild options and avoiding foreclosure on your home. If you are a renter, you may need help understanding your options when your residence is damaged, your landlord’s responsibility for repairs of your residence, submitting a renter’s insurance claim, and requesting government assistance for employment and food benefits.

Ultimately, don’t be afraid to get legal advice to assist you with your natural disaster recovery questions.

Topic 1: Consumer Protection/Hiring a Contractor

Topic 2: Disaster Benefits - D-SNAP (Food)

Topic 3: Disaster Benefits – DUA (Unemployment)

Topic 4: Displaced Students 

Topic 5: FEMA Claims/Appeals 

Topic 6: Hurricane Maria 

Topic 7: Property Insurance 

Topic 8: Rental Property

Topic 9: Replacing Lost Legal Documents