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Can non-citizens get FEMA assistance after Hurricane Ian? Yes, under these conditions

A week after Hurricane Ian ravaged entire communities across Southwest Florida, people of all backgrounds are trying to put their lives back together by throwing away water-damaged furniture, removing mold-infested walls and finding a place to get a hot shower for the first time in a while.

But even though many are displaced, not everyone is facing the same challenges. Some lost loved ones, others no longer have a place to live, and quite a few desperately need help to get back on their feet.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said earlier this week that it’s “committed to helping all eligible disaster survivors recover from Hurricane Ian” — including non-citizen nationals and “qualified aliens.”

Disaster survivors in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Flagler, Hardee, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Orange, Osceola, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, St. Johns, Sarasota, Seminole and Volusia counties may apply for FEMA subsidies.

You or a member of your household must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or a “qualified alien” in order to get help from FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program, the agency said Tuesday. IHP provides financial and direct services to eligible people and households whose insurance will not cover all “necessary expenses and serious needs.”

Here’s who can apply.

A mobile home damaged by Hurricane Ian is seen along the road on Fort Myers Beach on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
A mobile home damaged by Hurricane Ian is seen along the road on Fort Myers Beach on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.

Who is a ‘qualified alien’?

A “qualified alien” includes:

A legal permanent resident (“green card” holder).

An asylee, refugee or an “alien” whose deportation is being withheld.

An “alien” paroled into the U.S. for at least one year.

An “alien” granted conditional entry (per law in effect prior to April 1, 1980).

A Cuban or Haitian entrant.

Certain “aliens” subjected to extreme cruelty or who have been a victim of a severe form of human trafficking, including persons with a “T” or “U” visa.

“Aliens” whose children have been abused and undocumented children whose parent has been abused who fit certain criteria.

An Urban Search and Rescue Florida Task Force 2 team member walks past a 1965 Corvette damaged by floodwaters caused by Hurricane Ian on Fort Myers Beach on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
An Urban Search and Rescue Florida Task Force 2 team member walks past a 1965 Corvette damaged by floodwaters caused by Hurricane Ian on Fort Myers Beach on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.

READ MORE: Did Ian destroy your roof? Check if you qualify to get a blue tarp installed for free

Who is a non-citizen national?

A non-citizen national is a person born in an “outlying possession of the U.S.” like American Samoa on or after the date the U.S. acquired it, or a person whose parents are U.S. non-citizen nationals (all U.S. citizens are U.S. nationals; however, not every U.S. national is a U.S. citizen).

A home damaged by Hurricane Ian on Fort Myers Beach is seen on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
A home damaged by Hurricane Ian on Fort Myers Beach is seen on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.

READ MORE: Need to fix your home after Hurricane Ian? Contractor red flags to watch in Florida

What if I don’t qualify for either?

If you do not meet the status of either U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien, FEMA says, your household may still apply for and be considered for IHP assistance if:

Another adult member of your household meets the eligibility criteria and certifies their citizenship status during the registration process or signs the Declaration and Release form, or

The parent or guardian of a minor child who is a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or a “qualified alien” applies for assistance on behalf of the child, if they live in the same household. The parent or legal guardian must register as the co-applicant, and the minor child must be under age 18 at the time the disaster occurred.

Urban Search and Rescue Florida Task Force 2 team member R. Martin searches the damaged homes on Fort Myers Beach on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
Urban Search and Rescue Florida Task Force 2 team member R. Martin searches the damaged homes on Fort Myers Beach on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.

READ MORE: Hiring a contractor for home repair? How to check the license and complaints in Florida

For more information

To learn more about citizenship and immigration status requirements for federal public benefits, visit fema.gov/assistance/individual/program/citizenship-immigration-status. Information is available in different languages, including Spanish, Haitian Creole and others.

If you’re unsure of your immigration status, FEMA says you should talk to an immigration expert to know if your status allows you to get FEMA disaster assistance. To learn about voluntary organizations that help disaster survivors, visit nvoad.org.

Urban Search and Rescue Florida Task Force 2 team member R. Martin searches the damaged homes on Fort Myers Beach on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
Urban Search and Rescue Florida Task Force 2 team member R. Martin searches the damaged homes on Fort Myers Beach on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.

READ MORE: ‘Like the Gulf came in’: Hurricane Ian flooded this historically Black Naples neighborhood

How to apply for FEMA assistance

If you are eligible, there are three ways to apply for FEMA disaster assistance:

Visit DisasterAssistance.gov.

Download the “FEMA App” for mobile devices.

Call toll-free 800-621-3362 (FEMA).