How to Get Disaster Relief Aid and Report Property Damage after Irma
How to Get Disaster Relief Aid and Report Property Damage after Irma

How to Get Disaster Relief Aid and Report Property Damage after Irma


Disaster declarations in the wake of hurricane Irma allow residents of affected Florida communities eligibility for several federal disaster relief aid programs. But just what kinds of assistance can you qualify for, how do you get it, and how do you report property damage? Read on to find out.

Temporary aid for living expenses

FEMA’s “Individuals and Households Program” helps provide temporary economic relief to families displaced by a major natural disaster when private insurance isn’t available to pay the bill. To qualify, you’ll need to verify your identity and that you’re a U.S. citizen (or nationalized noncitizen or qualified alien) and have expenses and serious needs that are both directly caused by the disaster and not covered by insurance.

This relief can include money to rent a hotel room or apartment, and for food and medical care. To apply, go to DisasterAssistance.gov within 60 days of the date of disaster declaration. You should have the following information:

• Your Social Security number
• The address where the damage occurred
• A description of the damage
• Your current mailing address and working phone number
• Insurance information
• Household income
• A routing and account number for your checking or savings account. (Most relief money is paid directly to your bank account.)
• Notably, if flooding damaged your home, you most likely don’t have have insurance coverage for temporary living expenses. Even if you have federal flood insurance, it doesn’t reimburse homeowners for the cost of being displaced. You would only potentially have this coverage if you had a supplemental flood insurance policy or if your damage was caused by wind, fire or the results of the same. 
• In other words, if the hurricane blew the roof off your house, causing rain to come in, you would likely be covered under the wind damage provision in a normal homeowner’s policy. 
• Some supplemental flood insurance policies also cover temporary living costs, but that’s not guaranteed. Whether you would have it will depend on your insurer and the policy you bought. If you’re uncertain, contact your agent. Also, if you think you don’t have coverage, you can apply for disaster aid and simply repay FEMA if do you get a subsequent insurance reimbursement.

Housing Assistance

• FEMA also provides economic help if you need long-term housing while your home is uninhabitable, as well as home repair and home replacement assistance. This aid doesn’t pay to rebuild your home as it was. (To return your home to its pre-disaster condition, you may need to apply for a low-interest SBA loan.) 
• In some instances, as after Hurricane Katrina, the agency may provide this help by making temporary mobile homes available for displaced families. This option is generally used when not enough rental housing is available in the affected areas. The benefit of this so-called “direct housing assistance” is that its value isn’t subject to FEMA’s total assistance limit, which is $33,000 per household.
• Plus, FEMA disaster assistance payments are not taxable.

Unemployment assistance

• If a disaster throws you out of work, the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program kicks in to provide weekly unemployment payments for those who don’t qualify for ordinary jobless benefits. 
• Unemployment insurance is a federal program that’s administered by the states, so there are variations in the minimum and maximum benefit amounts. Payments under FEMA program are the same as the ordinary unemployment insurance program. In Texas, the current maximum benefit amount is $493 per week; in Florida, it’s $275 per week. Benefits are typically paid for a maximum of 26 weeks. Unemployment insurance payments generally are taxable.

Tax assistance

• The IRS has extended filing deadlines for those in disaster areas, generally giving them until January of next year to file and pay tax installments. If you get a late payment notice in the meantime, you can call the number on the notice to have the penalty waived.
• Taxpayers may also write off casualty losses that exceed 10 percent of their adjusted gross Income. Importantly, these losses can be deducted from the return filed for the year prior to the disaster. So if you had major losses from Hurricane Harvey or Irma, you could file an amended return and get a refund of 2016 taxes paid.
• For further information on claiming casualty losses, consult your tax preparer or IRS publication 4684.

Reporting Property Damage

Miami-Dade County has set up a webpage where residents can report their property damage. Please make sure you report this when it’s safe to take photos.  If you have damage, take pictures and submit a damage assessment report by clicking here.

Monroe County residents – those hardest hit by Hurricane Irma – should call FEMA at 800-621-3362 if your home was destroyed during the storm. At last check, Florida Keys residents were not being allowed to return to the area until county officials deemed it safe.

If you live in Broward County, you can report damage using Broward’s Home Damage Assessment Program by clicking here.  You’ll be asked to pick the type of damage you have to your home –  ranging from destroyed to no damage. Broward residents who need to report flooding can also do so on the same link above or call 954-831-4000.

In Palm Beach County, residents should report damage using the Disaster Awareness and Recovery Tool (DART) cellphone app for iOS and Android phones.

If you need more info, you can call Florida’s Emergency line at 1-800-342-3557 or visit their site here.

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