Getting Help From FEMA After a Hurricane | Kanner & Pintaluga

Getting Help From FEMA After a Hurricane

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Having your home or property damaged by a hurricane leaves most people with a lot of questions. Where do you go for immediate assistance? Where will you stay? What will you use for transportation? How are you going to cover your additional expenses before insurance kicks in? Will your insurance even cover the damage to your property?

We want to help answer some of the many questions you will likely have during this frustrating and confusing time.

Does FEMA Help Renters?

Yes, there are multiple ways FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) can help renters or homeowners after a disaster.

Does FEMA Help If You Have Insurance?

Technically, FEMA won’t provide assistance with expenses that are covered by your existing insurance. However, there are a few important caveats. There is a long list of “perils” that are not covered by standard renters and homeowners policies, including flooding from hurricanes. If you don’t have flood insurance and your home or vehicle is destroyed by flooding, FEMA should be able to provide some assistance in the form of a grant or resources.1

FEMA will also provide assistance for immediate expenses in the event your insurance settlement is delayed by 30 days or more. This situation is all too common in the wake of hurricanes in Florida, as many people are filing large, complicated claims at the same time. If you do have an insurance policy that covers some, but not all of the property damage you experienced, you may qualify for a loan or grant.

Will FEMA Pay for My Flooded Car?

You may be eligible for FEMA or government assistance in certain circumstances. If your car has comprehensive coverage the flooding and wind damage inflicted by a hurricane should be covered, in which case you may not need or be eligible for FEMA assistance. If you have comprehensive coverage and your insurance company is still trying to deny your claim it may be in your best interest to contact an independent claims adjuster or property damage attorney.

How to Get Fast Money After a Hurricane

Both renters and homeowners may be eligible for low-interest disaster loans provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).2 These loans are only available to people who have lost property due to a qualifying disaster.

SBA disaster loans can pay for the replacement of all types of personal property, including vehicles, home repairs and damaged property within your home. The rates on these loans can be as low as 1.75 percent depending on your financial standing and needs, which is far lower than most financing options.

Terms can be up to 30 years for up to $200,000 for home repairs and $40,000 for personal property. The amount, rate and term of the SBA loan you qualify for will be based on your needs and finances, as determined by your application.

Filing the SBA application is an important step, as it is also used to assess your need for other grants and resources available to victims of disasters. Keep in mind, you are not required to accept an SBA loan if you fill out an application.   

Applicants can contact FEMA at 1-800-621-3362. Multilingual operators are available.

Hurricane and Disaster Assistance Resources Through FEMA

If you were affected by Hurricane Michael, Hurricane Irma or any other disaster, the first place you’ll want to visit is FEMA’s Disaster Assistance website. This website allows you to check on the disaster status of your community, which will impact your ability to qualify for many types of assistance.

You can potentially receive assistance with everything from money, food and clothing to housing, medical and even legal services. There are a diverse array of federally sponsored departments and administrations that are specifically intended to assist people affected by disasters, many of which are unfamiliar to the majority of Americans.3

Hurricane and Disaster Assistance Resources Through FEMA

If you were affected by Hurricane Michael, Hurricane Irma or any other disaster, the first place you’ll want to visit is FEMA’s Disaster Assistance website. This website allows you to check on the disaster status of your community, which will impact your ability to qualify for many types of assistance.

You can potentially receive assistance with everything from money, food and clothing to housing, medical and even legal services. There are a diverse array of federally sponsored departments and administrations that are specifically intended to assist people affected by disasters, many of which are unfamiliar to the majority of Americans.3

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

The SAMHSA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has a program specifically designed to help communities provide these integral services to people who may have treatment disrupted during a disaster. There is even a toll-free, multilingual Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) that provide assistance and crisis support during these often tragic situations. You can call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to speak with a crisis counselor.

Mortgage Insurance for Disaster Victims and Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance

These programs, administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, are specifically designed for people who have lost a home or have a home that suffered severe damage in a hurricane.

The Section 203(h) Mortgage Insurance for Disaster Victims is intended to help people affected by a disaster qualify for a mortgage to rebuild their home or purchase a new home. These mortgages require no down payments.

The Section 203(k) Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance enables existing homeowners and those seeking to purchase a new home cover the costs of purchase and repairs with a single loan. If you’re in an effected area and want to repair your home or purchase a damaged home and repair it, the Section 203(k) insurance can help.  

The program is insured by the federal government and gives the mortgage company approval or denial authority over repair costs. This reduced risk incentivizes lenders to provide mortgages for homes they would deny under normal circumstances.4

Borrowers apply for the loan, gain initial approval, find contractors and get bids. Once they find a bid that is approved by the lender, the loan is closed and repairs can commence. This is beneficial for borrowers as well, as there’s an extra layer of verification with the lender holding the contractors accountable to perform work properly.

The other benefit for people whose homes were destroyed by a hurricane is you can finance up to six months of living expenses in the mortgage. That means you don’t have to pay for other living arrangements while the house is being repaired out of your own pocket.  

FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC)

Of course, doing this research can be difficult in the immediate aftermath of a disaster when you don’t have reliable internet or cellphone reception. There should be FEMA DRC mobile offices in your vicinity, which can help answer many of your questions, find resources and apply for grants and financing.

You can find a DRC locations in your area here or text DRC and the ZIP code of your current location to 43362. So if you were in Mexico Beach, FL following the aftermath of Hurricane Michael you would text 43362 with a message reading DRC 32456.

You’re Not Alone – There Are Many Options Available to You

There are many other potential options available to help feed, clothe and provide shelter for you and your family.  Visit https://www.disasterassistance.gov/ or get in touch with FEMA for more information.

While you’re trying to rebuild and move on, keep in mind that insurance companies aren’t charities. They are for-profit businesses. They don’t offer generous claim settlements out of the kindness of their hearts – rather they seek to get away with providing the smallest settlements possible to protect their bottom line.

Your insurance company’s interpretation of your policy and the damage your property suffered may be incorrect or unfair to you as a policyholder. There are other situations where policyholders are misled when they are initially purchasing coverage for their home or property.

If you believe you are being treated unfairly by your insurance company after filing a claim for Hurricane Michael or Hurricane Irma, you may benefit from hiring an independent claims adjuster or a property damage attorney with hurricane damage experience.