How to Get Disaster Assistance and Aid From Hurricane Irma

Florida is not unfamiliar with the consequences of hurricanes, but this year’s Hurricane Irma was especially unique and completely devastating. Even weeks after Irma, South Floridians continue the recovery process. If you’re just getting started in your journey through recovery, beycome has provided a list of resources to help.

Where to Find Aid

Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe are just a few of the 37 counties that are eligible for federal aid. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers help through Disaster Assistance, a program that educates the public about more than 70 different forms of assistance available through 17 federal agencies.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, more commonly known as FEMA, acts as a partner alongside Disaster Assistance. FEMA supports disaster recovery efforts and frequently offers help in times of flooding, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, and more. With their online resources, you can quickly find financial aid, apply online, and check the status of your request.

Immediate Needs

First things first: you need a place to stay safely and comfortably, especially if you don’t have access to non-contaminated food and water. In the wake of a hurricane, major damages can make living spaces become completely unlivable. If this is the case, a Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program offers hotels for individuals and families. Seek help now.

Another immediate need is health. Disaster Assistance covers some basic medical topics, however, if you have sustained long-term injuries, it’s best to head straight to your local healthcare provider or doctor if you haven’t done so already.  

Before a hurricane ever starts, families should have a plan in place to meet at a pre-designated location in case of separation. In a worst-case scenario, Disaster Assistance will help you connect with displaced family members and pets.

Types of Property Damages

Once your immediate needs are taken care of, it’s time to assess property damage. Read about them below:

  • Roof: This is the most common type of hurricane damage. Winds incoming from a Category 4 hurricane can reportedly rip a roof straight off a house. The extent of the damage depends on how old the home is and whether or not it has been damaged previously.
  • Interior: When roofs are damaged, then the interior is compromised, allowing heavy winds and rains inside the house. Doors, windows, walls, and floors are all affected. Flying debris may also devastate personal belongings. And when water gets into the house, there is a high likelihood of mold in the aftermath.
  • Exterior: Outside of a property, you will see fallen trees and heavy branches, roof tiles, and most dangerously, downed power lines, which you should absolutely avoid. Flooding may have damaged the exterior walls of your house. If you did not put up storm shutters before the storm, broken windows are also a possibility.
  • Utilities: Electrical equipment and computer systems quickly malfunction during a hurricane. This is why necessities such as electricity and internet are typically out of commission for several days up to a few weeks after the storm.

Note: Again, your safety is our first priority. If any of the above damages have affected you or your family’s health or safety, please seek the immediate resources listed above.

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Now on to recovery. First, take a look at your insurance policies. When you first began the home buying process (whether through FSBO or not), you may have purchased a standard homeowner’s or renter’s policy. These won’t necessarily cover hurricanes or floods unless you specifically purchased it. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers this coverage for a speedy recovery.

Take inventory and have photographic evidence of all devastation in and around your home. Don’t forget about any other structures on your property, such as a storage shed in the backyard. Note the time and date of the loss, and get together any related receipts. After you make a complete list, and after you understand what your deductibles are, then you can take the correct steps to file a claim.

It doesn’t stop there. Stay on top of any phone calls, emails, or other communications related to the claim. It’s also helpful if you file them in chronological order. At this time, providers are helping hundreds if not thousands of claims at once, so it’s pretty easy to feel lost in the paperwork. Hopefully, you have a helpful provider who makes the process easy.

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If insurance doesn’t cover what you need, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers a Home and Property Disaster Loan. These loans are low interest and long term. You can get up to $200,000 for the purpose of home repair or replacing lost items. The only stipulation is that you can’t use the funds to add to the property or make new upgrades. A Home and Property Disaster Loan is excellent if you can’t get credit anywhere else and have sustained heavy damages.

With the Single-Family Housing Repair Loans and Grants program, also called the Section 504 Home Repair program, you may be eligible for funds for the elderly and low-income homeowners. You may use the money to make repairs and improve the safety standards of your house. The maximum loan is $20,000, and the maximum grant is $7,500. You may also combine the funds together to receive $27,500.

The 203(h) Mortgage Insurance for Disaster Victims and 203(k) Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance programs are two more options for your family. Both are intended to help home buyers rehabilitate a house or finance an existing home. These are offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Disaster Assistance offers all these benefits and more. To understand how they can help you best, visit their website.

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