Over the weekend, Hurricane Harvey devastated sections of Texas. It decimated many homes and businesses, and affected hundreds of thousands of residents. Even though it’s no longer a hurricane, the region is still reeling from massive flooding. Current analyses show reconstruction efforts could cost $40 billion, and it could take years to rebuild.
Harvey was the first category four hurricane to hit Texas since 1961, so many victims of the storm are likely unaware of how the disaster recovery process works or where to start. If you’ve been affected by Hurricane Harvey, here’s what you can do to get the immediate and longer-term assistance you need.
Emergency food and housing
With the storm’s impact, you might not have had much time to evacuate. You may have left with just the clothes on your back and no food or water. With heavy flooding, you might not be able to return to your home, or your home may be too heavily damaged to enter.
If you need help accessing essentials, call or email the 2-1-1 helpline. They can direct you to organizations and shelters offering food, temporary housing, and clothing. The helpline is available 24/7, and the call center staff are fluent in several different languages.
President Donald Trump issued a major disaster declaration for Harvey, so you can apply for long-term aid designed to help you get back on your feet and rebuild.
If you live in one of the following counties, you may be eligible for individual assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Harris, Jackson, Kleberg, Liberty, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria, and Wharton.
Individual and public assistance dollars are being collected, but are not yet available. FEMA updates the Hurricane Harvey disaster recovery page every 24 hours, so it’s a good idea to check back.
When the money is available, go through the application process and complete the questionnaire on DisasterAssistance.gov for additional aid. Your answers will be essential in identifying aid you might be eligible for, including grants, low-interest loans, temporary housing, and other assistance. Once complete, the site will issue you a PIN so you can log into your account. If you’d prefer to apply over the phone, call 1-800-621-FEMA.
You will need the following information to complete the application:
- Social Security number
- Insurance information (if applicable)
- Damage information
- Pre-tax household income at the time the storm hit
- Contact information
- Direct deposit bank information, including your account and routing numbers
To track your application’s status, log into your account or call the FEMA helpline. Because this is such a widespread disaster, it might take a few days to process your application.
Other disaster recovery to-dos
After taking care of your immediate needs and applying for FEMA aid, there are other things you need to do to help your family recover:
- Remove valuables. If your home is safe to enter and accessible, remove any valuables from the home.
- Take pictures. If possible, take pictures of any destruction, such as damage to your roof or flooding on the first floor.
- Create an inventory. List any items in your home that need to be replaced. The list should include items beyond electronics and valuables. Consider everyday items — bedding, clothing, and kitchen supplies.
- Contact your insurance company. Depending on your policy, your insurer might cover living expenses, such as staying at a hotel and meals. If you had storm or flood coverage, submit a claim for any damage done to your home or vehicle. It’s worth contacting your insurance company even if you didn’t have a specific flood policy. Some insurers will still cover part of the damage.
Moving forward after Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey had a devastating effect on hundreds of thousands of people, and disaster recovery efforts will likely last for several years. To protect you and your family and begin the rebuilding process, contact local organizations and FEMA as soon as possible to get all the assistance to which you’re entitled.
If you were not affected by the storm but would like to help victims of Harvey, please consider donating to the American Red Cross.
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