“I don’t know where to begin.” I’m sure this is a sentiment felt by thousands today as we look toward moving forward after Hurricane Harvey. Let’s start with financial help. Lack of money or stress over where the money for repairs and recovery will come from is a common problem. Two things you can do immediately are:
- Register with FEMA
- Contact your insurance company if you have insurance.
(Note: I’m going to cover registering with FEMA in this blog and discuss insurance coverage in another.)
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance under the Individuals and Households Program (IHP) is money or other assistance to help with critical expenses that can’t be provided in other ways. Assistance is NOT provided for losses that are cover by insurance. Not filing an insurance claim will NOT make you eligible for FEMA assistance if your loss is insured. There are, however, some ways FEMA may help even if you have insurance, which I will cover later in this blog.
First, to apply for help from FEMA:
- Complete the application form (call 1-800-621-3362 or apply online at https://www.disasterassistance.gov/). FEMA does not accept applications by mail or at Disaster Recovery Centers, unless the center has computers for public use.
- On the application you must provide your Social Security number, current and pre-disaster address, phone number, description of your losses, directions to your damaged property, type of insurance coverage, and total household income. You, another adult, or a minor child in your household must have a Social Security number. You or they must also be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.
After you have sent in the application, FEMA will send you a copy of your claim and a registration identification number. It will be on all official correspondence about your claim. Do not share this number with anyone. About 10 to 14 days after you register, a FEMA inspector will call to make an appointment to inspect your property.
About 10 days after the inspection, FEMA will tell you whether you qualify for IHP assistance. If so, FEMA will send a check or deposit funds to your bank account. FEMA will also send a letter telling you how to use the money (repairs, rent, etc.).
If you do not qualify, FEMA will tell you why you were denied and how to appeal. Appeals must be made in writing and mailed within 60 days. You will be mailed a Small Business Development (SBA) Disaster Loan application to apply for a low-interest loan. The SBA processes disaster loans for homeowners and renters.
Second, if you have insurance, FEMA may still be able to help if:
- Your insurance settlement is delayed or not enough to meet your disaster-related needs.
- You have exhausted the living expenses payable by your policy.
- No rental property is available in your area.
If you need more information about help from FEMA after Hurricane Harvey, please see https://www.fema.gov/hurricane-harvey.
Source: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. After a Disaster Guide Book, publication E300, 2/11.