If you are a homeowner, business owner, or renter affected by Hurricane Irma, you still may be able to receive certain benefits through the Federal Emergency Management Agency “FEMA” if you are uninsured or underinsured.
Storm damage and losses from the hurricane and flooding must have occurred because of Hurricane Irma, beginning on September 4, 2017.
If your home was destroyed or your damage is very serious, you may be eligible for FEMA assistance regardless of whether you are also submitting an insurance claim.
Even if you have insurance, if your coverage falls short of compensating you for every aspect of your loss, you may still be eligible for relief from FEMA. If this is you, when applying for assistance, let FEMA know what insurance coverage you have, as they may be able to fill in the gaps. Also, understand that as part of the application process, you may be asked to provide evidence that your insurer denied your claim in order for FEMA to determine your eligibility for assistance.1
For some examples, FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program covers temporary housing and rental assistance, home repairs or replacement, and provides other benefits that are not always available through insurance. Although many insurance policies provide Additional Living Expenses “ALE” coverage, FEMA may kick in where your insurance company falls short. (see FEMA Fact Sheet, September 2017).
The other beneficial aspect of FEMA assistance is that, unlike a bank loan or even a loan backed by the U.S. Business Administration, (“SBA” loan), it does not have to be paid back.
In sum, for those affected by Irma who are insured, file separate claims with your insurance company and with FEMA. FEMA will not duplicate payments made by your insurer. Those without insurance may still be eligible for help depending upon the severity of your circumstance, and those of you who have insurance but may be underinsured may receive additional help from FEMA after your insurance claims have been paid. (See Tampa Bay Times article)
For a list of Florida counties that have made eligible for individual assistance under FEMA go to: https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4337.
For more information, or to register for assistance, go to www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).
For those survivors with disabilities or who need other special accommodations, you can request specialized services from FEMA, including technologies such as braille, language interpreters, sign language interpreters (including video remote), amplified listening devices, and magnifiers. For more on this, see: https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2017/09/29/services-available-hurricane-irma-survivors-disabilities-access-needs
FEMA recommends that you have the following information ready when you apply for assistance:
- •Social Security number
- •Address of the damaged home or apartment
- •Description of the damage
- •Information about insurance coverage
- •A current contact telephone number
- •An address where you can receive mail
- •Bank account and routing numbers for direct deposit of funds
Hopefully you will be eligible for FEMA assistance and your claim will be paid. If not, you should receive written notification that your claim is not being accepted, why it is not being accepted, and how to appeal the decision.
If you have suffered a loss not fully compensated by insurance, FEMA, or other program, you may be eligible for a long-term low-interest disaster recovery loan from the government, or SBA loan. This can be addressed by calling the SBA disaster customer service center at 800-659-2995 or (TTY) 800-877-8339 or www.sba.gov/disaster.
And if you need practical information on what to do long-term, FEMA just announced yesterday they will have mitigation specialists on hand in various locations available to answer questions and to offer home improvement tips, along with proven methods to prevent or reduce damage from future disasters and techniques on building hazard-resistant homes. The official press release with a list of locations and hours is available at: https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2017/10/07/4337/irma-mitigation-outreach-available-florida-home-improvement-stores
FEMA also announced yesterday that if you suffered property damage or a loss directly caused by Hurricane Maria, you are encouraged—just like Irma victims—to register with FEMA and apply for disaster relief even if you have insurance, as it can serve to fill gaps if you are uninsured or underinsured. According to the release, over 280,000 disaster survivors have already registered for assistance. https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2017/10/07/how-register-fema-disaster-assistance#
The following is a basic summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Donald J. Trump’s disaster declaration issued for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.2
Assistance for Affected Individuals and Families Can Include as Required:
- rental payments for temporary housing,
- grants for home repairs essential for safety and functionality, grants for personal property, medical, dental and transportation,3
- unemployment payments for those whose jobs were affected,
- crisis counseling, tax assistance, legal assistance, veterans’ benefits, social security matters
- SBA loans for residential losses not otherwise covered,
- SBA loans for small businesses, non-profits, farmers and ranchers. https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2017/09/21/federal-aid-programs-commonwealth-puerto-rico
For information on how to apply, see above.
Assistance for the Commonwealth and Affected Local Governments Can Include, as Required:
- Payment of not less than 75 percent of the eligible costs for debris removal and emergency protective measures taken to save lives and protect property and public health.
- Payment of not more than 75 percent of the approved costs for hazard mitigation projects undertaken by the Commonwealth to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural or technological disasters.
I believe that there are many, many of you out there that may never be the same after having endured either of these storms. That said, I encourage every survivor out there to look into these resources that may be of help to you.
“Storm Damage? Get some basic info and apply now for FEMA assistance” by Mary Ellen Klas, Tampa Bay Times, September 13, 2017, found at http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/stateroundup/storm-damage-get-some-basic-info-and-apply-now-for-fema-assistance/2337382
Disaster Survivors with Floor or Homeowners/Renters Insurance are Encouraged to Apply for Disaster Assistance, FEMA Fact Sheet, September 2017.
1 Note that if you have National Flood Insurance Program Insurance “NFIP,” you are not required to provide evidence that your insurance company denied your claim for the disaster caused-loss to be eligible for temporary housing assistance from FEMA, but will need to provide evidence that your claim for your building or contents was denied if you are seeking assistance for those losses. Also, if you only have homeowner’s insurance that does not cover flood—and have sustained only flood damage—you are not required to submit documentation that your carrier denied your claim to receive FEMA rental assistance or financial assistance for real or personal property disaster-caused damage. (FEMA Fact Sheet, September 2017).
2 Additional federal funding for these programs was approved/updated on September 26, 2017.
3 75% to be funded by FEMA, 25% by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.