This Insight provides a brief overview of emergency and major declarations and federal assistance programs potentially available to those affected by Hurricane Dorian. It also lists resources for forecast information, hurricane and flooding information, and selected CRS reports on federal emergency management policy.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued watches and warnings for Hurricane Dorian, a storm east of the central Bahamas on August 30. The storm reached hurricane strength as it passed east of Puerto Rico on Wednesday, August 28. The forecast on August 30 anticipates Dorian to continue to strengthen as it moves west-northwest toward the northern Bahamas. NOAA expects heavy rain, with the potential for flash floods, as well as life-threatening surf, rip current, and storm surge conditions to begin affecting the southeastern U.S. coast in the next few days. Location-specific impacts to the continental United States remain unclear; the August 30 forecast states that the likelihood of hurricane-force winds along the east coast of Florida over the weekend continues to increase.

President Donald J. Trump signed an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico (August 27) and the U.S. Virgin Islands (August 28). Other emergency declarations may be forthcoming. As authorized under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288, as amended; 42 U.S.C. §§5121 et seq.), the President may issue an emergency declaration in anticipation of an incident to support state and local efforts to save lives, protect property, and lessen or avert the incident from becoming a major disaster. As Hurricane Dorian makes landfall, and the storm warrants further federal assistance, the President may issue a major disaster declaration. This allows for a broad range of federal assistance programs to be made available to state, local, and territorial governments, private nonprofit organizations, and individuals through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies.

FEMA has announced the following preparations for Hurricane Dorian:

Types of FEMA Assistance Provided for Major Disasters

FEMA provides three major categories of assistance for major disasters:

The forms of assistance authorized by a major disaster declaration may vary by the designated areas, per the declaration (subject to amendment). The President can also amend major disaster declarations to decrease the state cost-share requirements for some PA grants.

National Flood Insurance Program

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is the primary source of flood insurance coverage for residential properties. Homeowners and tenants with NFIP flood insurance can make flood damage claims using the normal NFIP claims process. There does not have to be an emergency or disaster declaration in order to make an NFIP claim.

As of July 31, 2019, the NFIP had $6.004 billion available ($4.897 billion in the National Flood Insurance Fund and $1.107 billion in the reserve fund), as well as $9.9 billion of borrowing authority from the Treasury and up to $2.12 billion of reinsurance for a single flood event with losses over $4-$6 billion.

Additional Hurricane and Flooding Resources

Forecast Information:


FEMA Programs and Resources:

CRS Resources

Hurricane and Flooding Resources

Federal Disaster Assistance—Process and Programs