Should high earners register with FEMA?

Its been 3 weeks since the Fires and I have been debating registering with FEMA.

Why FEMA? Well I have always wanted to live in a trailer (RV living baby), but maybe it is too soon to joke about that. Why FEMA? Because I believe they help those in need. Particularly those with financial constraints in their lives.

FEMA does all sorts of great things. For the community, they come in and clean up debris after disasters, help mitigate health issues by getting people out, and coordinate the many pieces of the puzzle. For individuals they provide housing assistance, grants to rebuild, and offer information on how to go forward. This is great and invaluable.

So I am a fan of FEMA…so why not register?

My first inclination to register was during the first week. I went through the process then reached the final page. That final page gave me pause. It basically said that if insurance or other coverage provides assistance and pays for any housing, rebuilding, etc. then all moneys obtained from FEMA must be returned.

This is not a surprise and if you ask me is the right thing to do.

Realizing I make too much money (thank goodness) and am well insured (double thank goodness) I knew I would  not qualify for FEMA assistance. This is a good thing. I am happy to be ineligible

So I closed the browser.

Then this week came by

A few weeks passed and I thought, so I make too much money for FEMA. So what! I am still going to register.

Well there was more to it then that.

See, since the fire I have been getting discounts and some free stuff. It feels weird. I make a lot of money and can afford to buy what I need. So why take the discounted items you may ask….well….MY HOUSE BURNED DOWN AND ANY THING HELPS.

So if Banana Republic and Macy’s and Crate and Barrel want to help me out, I thank them. I appreciate it. Corporate America can likely afford to throw me a bone. Plus, I am more likely to spend more of my money over the extended future with them. It is a win win scenario. They get my business and I get a discount rebuilding my life.

I know it is weird, but hey this is a personal finance blog and I will take a deal when I can get it.

Ok so back to FEMA

So I figure if I am accepting disaster relief (from companies) then I should at least be officially registered. So I went back online to register.

I give FEMA props for making it easy to register. I think the entire process took me 5 minutes.

My work had handed out these fliers discussing how to do it.

Basically all you need is your social security number, address, and insurance information. Simple.

So I went online to


I clicked Apply Online and they asked for my address and determined what disaster I was dealing with.


Wildfires sure do get wild.

Then it was time to enter my info. There were a few screens asking for names of residents, social security numbers, new mailing addresses, type of damage, insurance coverage and income, and finally a bank account number to give you the financial assistance. (I did not give them my bank account info as I did not expect any assistance.)

Bam. I was done. FEMA registered and disaster relief official.

Then what?

Well as expected, within 5 minutes I received a phone call and an email stating I was INELIGIBLE for FEMA assistance. Shocking…well not really.

As you can see above, I am ineligible for housing assistance but surprisingly eligible for lodging.

So what is lodging reimbursement?

FEMA will pay for 1 room per 4 occupants. So a family of 4 would have a hotel room paid for until a set date (in our case I think it was November 9th or 1 month post fires- don’t quote me on that though). They do stipulate that finding a room may be difficult (which is an understatement) and that all hotels may not accept the FEMA program.

Useful assistance that I luckily do not need. My family are chilling in our new minimalist lifestyle in a 700 square foot apartment (albeit not by choice). Still it is nice to know that FEMA has my back.

Registration done…what was the point?

Why go through all of this?

I think it is important to be counted for and receive a FEMA number. That number unlocks further discounts going forward whether it is buying furniture, clothes, etc. while putting my life back to some level of normalcy.

So that is why I registered for FEMA and recommend all high earners who have been through disasters to do so too. You may not get financial assistance, and you should be happy about that. Life has given you opportunities to be financially sound.

You will, however, be counted amongst your peers and have a reference number going forward.

Bonus round- registering with the U.S. Small Business Administration

Ok, I did not register for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), but recommend doing so for most people. You have to first register for FEMA, and then can register for the SBA.

Here is an info sheet:

Basically those both eligible and ineligible for FEMA can receive low rate loans from the SBA for both business and homes.

The rates are pretty good with a 1.75% rate for a home loan if credit is not available elsewhere.

The limits are low. I think I was quoted at $200,000 for a max home loan.

There are 3 main reasons I chose not to register because:

1) I can get a loan from a bank putting me at a 3.5% interest rate.

2) My current home loan has an interest rate of 2.875%.

3) If I buy a second home it will be at over the $200k limit for this loan.

Still I think it is something to consider for those who have gone through a disaster and need some further aide.


So I write this on Friday night, November 3rd. The blog posts keep coming and there is so much to write, but I am constrained by time.

Time with my family, at work, in my now doubled commute (from 10 minutes to 20 minutes each way mainly because traffic is worse), and time needed for myself (selfceare is clutch).

I will continue posting on a biweekly basis, but as you may have noticed my days have been turned upside down. I am hoping to get back to my Wednesday Hump Day posts because there are a lot of good posts going out each week that need to be shared with the community.

As far as FEMA goes, Thank you. I know you may not be perfect, but I appreciate the help you bring.

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Also published on Medium.


I am a Dad and Doctor trying to find financial freedom by owning my dollars and debts. Helping dads with their finances so they can focus on the family.

12 thoughts on “Should high earners register with FEMA?

  • November 17, 2017 at 5:56 am

    Thank you for this post and your openNess and honesty.
    I would want to be registered for information on next steps, or follow up info in the future.
    Wishing you ease in this part of your journey.

    • November 17, 2017 at 5:58 am

      Thanks Jacq…I think it is important to be counted and you never know what other benefits may come down the line.

  • November 8, 2017 at 11:35 pm

    I retired in August. In September I got hit by Irma, and had a few thousand dollars in tree damage and clean up costs. Enough to cause me to pay but not enough to time out my deductible. I also had to buy a new generator. Got it on a labor day sale and they mailed it to me 2 days before we were hit! Amazon is amazing.

    I applied to Fema online and at first I was denied but then out of the blue they sent me a check for $884 which covered my generator and gas, as we were out of power for 5 days. I was totally honest with them. I could have qualified for some housing but I didn’t want it. I don’t feel a bit guilty about getting back $884 of the millions I’ve paid in taxes.

    • November 9, 2017 at 5:51 am

      Nor should you. Plus your income had dropped quickly at that time. They are there to help, so we will take it as it comes.

  • November 6, 2017 at 6:58 am

    I would also register and be counted, and see where the system leads. Just the fact that you’ve registered could be of significance at some point, even though you were deemed ineligible.

    I appreciate your integrity and how much thought you’ve put into this. Good luck with the next steps.

    • November 6, 2017 at 7:30 am

      Thanks Mrs. G…It did take some considering but I figure if I am using the “perks” (sarcasm intended) of having my home burn down, then I have to register and be counted!

  • November 5, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Color me educated about FEMA and SBA loans! Useful to know as I might stop my geographic arbitrage at some point and move back to sweet home Louisiana. Also, the upper Midwest where I live is prone to flooding from snow melt.
    Thanks DDD

    • November 5, 2017 at 9:23 am

      I never thought of flooding with snow but it does make sense…seems like there is no escape from Mother Earth!

  • November 4, 2017 at 5:48 am

    I think registration was the right move to be counted. The government can and should disclose high earners. But counting them has value. The scale might lead to better funded programs or better regulations in the future.

    I hope things are starting to settle down for you and your family at least.

    • November 4, 2017 at 6:15 am

      We are getting there. Things like getting our kitchen back to a functioning level with plates, etc helps. We finally have towels and sheets.

      Now comes figuring out future housing plans.

  • November 4, 2017 at 5:34 am

    I understand why you might be hesitant but the system exists to help people and will DQ you (as it did) in instances when it wasn’t meant to help you. I wouldn’t feel bad registering and letting the process dictate whether you qualify… but I completely understand the initiate hesitation. It’s also a difficult time, you’re out of your element and routine, there’s worry that if you qualify that you’re taking benefits from someone else (afaik, that’s not the case), but I think you did the right thing.

    I think being counted is important, it helps get the data on the fire as accurate as possible and self-selecting yourself out wouldn’t help.

    I still can’t fathom what you guys have gone through…

    • November 4, 2017 at 6:13 am

      Thanks Jim. Agreed, being counted is important and the system quickly disqualified me. At least it is doing its job in assessing need accurately.

      As for us, every day is a little easier. Still have a lot of choices to make going forward.


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