Hurricane Irma did more than $62 billion of damage in Florida and the Caribbean, making it the fourth-costliest hurricane on record. Homes and property were destroyed and damaged, 101 people died, and many endured serious hardships.
Survivors continue to clean up and try to return to their normal lives. Fortunately there is help available from the federal government, state government, and charities. Below are links and information on some of the help that's available.
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is involved in coordinating the response to Irma since a state of emergency was declared in Florida. You can go to FEMA.gov or Disasterassistance.gov for more information on a variety of programs to see if you are eligible for assistance and to apply. You can also call FEMA toll-free at 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362).
Below is information on some of the help available for Irma survivors.
Home and Disaster Assistance
If you go to disasterassistance.gov and mouse over the “Get Assistance” tab, a drop down menu will appear that includes an “Apply Online” option. Click that to register for federal disaster assistance. You will need to have your Social Security number, financial information, and insurance information available.
Irma survivors may be eligible to receive FEMA Disaster Assistance if their home was damaged. Damage can include loss of utilities, and renters are eligible. The only way to know if you are eligible is to apply, and it costs nothing to do so. After you apply, you can return to the website to check your status.
Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture manages the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or D-SNAP, which “gives food assistance to low-income households with food loss or damage caused by a natural disaster.”
You may be eligible for D-SNAP even if you would not normally qualify for SNAP benefits (formerly called food stamps) if you had disaster expenses caused by:
- Home or business repairs
- Temporary shelter expenses
- Evacuation or relocation expenses
- Home or business protection
- Disaster-related personal injury, including funeral expenses
- Lost or no access to income due to the disaster, including reduced, terminated, or delayed receipt of income, for a large part of the benefit period
- In some cases, food loss after a disaster like flooding or power outages
- More information can be found here. Florida residents can call 1-866-762-2237 for information on D-SNAP benefits.
Disaster Unemployment Assistance
You may qualify for Disaster Unemployment Assistance if your job was lost or interrupted due to a disaster and you are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits.
According to disasterassistance.gov, “If you lived, worked, or were scheduled to work in the declared disaster area, you may qualify for assistance if you meet any of the following conditions:
- No longer have a job or place to work.
- Can’t reach your job site.
- Can’t work because of damage to the job site.
- Were about to start a new job but, due to the disaster, the job no longer exists.
- Can’t work because of an injury caused by the disaster.
- Became the major support for a household because the head of household died due to the disaster.”
Those are just some of the programs available to people affected by Hurricane Irma and natural disasters. Some of the others include Disaster Legal Services, business disaster loans, home and property disaster loans, and much more.
Your mortgage servicer may also give you a deferment on your mortgage payments. Contact them for information, or feel free to reach out to our firm to see if we can help.
If you've been affected by Hurricane Irma or another natural disaster, you should look into the programs that are available to help you. You have to be proactive. Nobody's going to give it to you. It can be a hassle to apply, but if you do get assistance it could make a big difference in easing your burden caused by the disaster.
Watch Out For Scammers!
Remember to use caution before you believe anything as true, give out your personal information, or grant anyone access to your home. The only number to call for FEMA assistance is 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362).
FEMA's website states “After a disaster scam artists, identity thieves and other criminals may attempt to prey on vulnerable survivors. The most common post-disaster fraud practices include phony housing inspectors, fraudulent building contractors, bogus pleas for disaster donations and fake offers of state or federal aid.”
There is a page titled Hurricane Irma Rumor Control on FEMA's website that lists a number of rumors and scams. If you're aware of them, you can avoid being scammed by them.
Feel free to add comments below about your experience with Hurricane Irma.