After a hurricane, wildfire, or flood, many people rely on Small Business Administration loans to rebuild their homes. But not everyone can get these loans.

“The problem is, the people who might not qualify because they have, say, a lower credit score, or maybe they have a lot of student loans and that’s driving up their debt-to-income ratio, these people are also the ones who may need the most help in recovering after a disaster,” says Emily Gallagher, an assistant professor of finance at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

She studied how relief aid was allocated to Houston residents whose homes flooded during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

She says people in some areas were far more likely to be denied loans.

“It’s definitely the case that these denials are falling harder on lower-income communities, which also tend to be higher minority communities,” Gallagher says.

People who do not qualify for a loan can apply for cash grants from FEMA. But the grants are much smaller and are not always easy to get.

So those who are most financially vulnerable may have the hardest time recovering after a disaster, despite programs intended to help.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media and Diana Madson