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 Florida and north of Grand Bahama Island on September 3. The storm reached hurricane strength as it passed east of Puerto Rico on Wednesday, August 28. The forecast on September 3 anticipates Dorian continuing to move towards and along the southeastern U.S. coast over the course of the week. NOAA expects these areas to experience tropical storm and hurricane conditions, including life-threatening storm surge, destructive waves, and potential flash floods and isolated tornadoes.

President Donald J. Trump signed an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico (August 27), the U.S. Virgin Islands (August 28), Florida (August 30), Georgia (September 2) and South Carolina (September 2). 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 and responses 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