After a disaster, everything is a little overwhelming and it may feel like there are hundreds of things that you have to do, but where do you start? This may be even further complicated when you have to evacuate to a new city and are living out of a hotel.
Step One: Get the Aide You Need Now
The USDA and FEMA work together for bringing food assistance after a disaster (D-SNAP) to those who need it. You are entitled to food assistance after a disaster. You will need to call your local SNAP office, but if you are having difficulties call your state’s SNAP hotline.
Contact the local Red Cross shelter even if you don't need shelter. They also provide assistance like food vouchers, clothing, and personal care goods.
There is also a law in place in Florida that requires your health insurance to pay for an early refill after a Declaration of Emergency by the Governor. If you are without your medicine, contact your insurer and find a pharmacy to get your refill. Even in a disaster, you need to make sure you are taking care of yourself.
If you are an enrollee in Medicare or AARP, contact these programs for more specialized assistance during your time of need.
Step Two: Take Care of Yourself Financially
Keep track of all of your disaster-related expenditures including evacuation and securing your home before and after the storm.
There are a lot of things that you can do to save yourself from spending more money after a disaster. Make sure to call your mortgage company and request a forbearance on your mortgage. If you do not know who your mortgage servicer is, call (888) 679-6377 or visit the MERS SericerID page.
At this time money may get tight, call your credit card companies and utility providers at this time to see how they can work with you on your future payments. Federal student loan borrowers are eligible for 3 months of payment forbearance after a disaster.
Next, call your insurance company to make sure you have the correct coverage for the storm. This will also include flood insurance. Even if you do not have flood insurance there are ways to get assistance through FEMA.
You can request a digital copy of your insurance policy to keep with you if you have evacuated out of state or do not have access to your mail. Your insurance company may also assist you in your expenditures for evacuation and temporary housing.
If you can get back to your home, make sure to take pictures and document all damage to your home, car, and property. Secure your home to prevent more damage from the elements.
Step Three: Contact FEMA
There are going to be a lot of people who are going to be going to the FEMA website and calling. The sooner you get in touch the faster you can start getting some direction.
If you or someone with you has a disability make sure to visit Online Resources for Disabilities or Access and Functional Needs for accessible information.
800-621-3362 if you need assistance when applying online
800-462-7585 (7am-11pm eastern time 7 days a week)
Before you call or begin registering, gather as much of the following information as you can:
- Social Security number
- Address of the location where the damage occurred (pre-disaster address)
- Current mailing address
- Current telephone number
- Insurance information
- Total household annual income
- Routing and account number for your checking or savings account (this allows FEMA to directly transfer disaster assistance funds into your bank account).
- A description of your disaster-caused damage and losses
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