If your family, home, or business were affected by Hurricane Harvey, you undoubtedly want to move forward quickly. Here are some suggestions:
- Start a notebook, take photos, and take diligent notes. Take photos of your property, inside and out, documenting the damage as thoroughly as possible. (If you have “before” pictures, add them to your notebook.) Keep a written record of all conversations, including the date, name and company of the person you speak with, their contact information, and any suggestions, agreements, or referrals they provide. Clip useful articles from the paper and write down the links to websites so you can refer to them easily. Some people are better at this than others; you may wish to designate someone in your family as the official record keeper. Although, in the beginning, you may think you’ll remember what’s important, disaster recovery is long and complex and your notes and photos can make an enormous difference in your ability to manage a successful recovery.
- Be prepared to wait. As of September 1, 325,000 people had applied for FEMA assistance. Although 223,246 Individual Assistance applications had been approved by September 12, there are many, many steps between approval and moving back into your repaired home. There will be long lines, long times on hold, long waits at the gas pump, and long delays before services can be provided. Bring your book, your magazines, and your knitting.
- Watch for scams. Unfortunately, there are those who are quick to take advantage of people affected by disaster. Always ask for ID, check badges carefully, and don’t sign or pay for anything without first checking out the vendor. (See the links to FEMA Rumor Control and Tips to Avoid Fraud, below.)
- Apply for replacement documents. If you have lost vital documents, such as identification, Social Security card, credit/debit cards, passports, or insurance and bank papers contact the agencies as soon as possible. (See The Federal Trade Commission link below.)
- Explore your eligibility. You may be eligible for a variety of assistance, from $500 critical needs funds (diapers, infant formula, food, fuel, etc.), to rental assistance, to FEMA funds, etc. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is granting a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures; Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are both offering a range of special programs. (See the links below.)
- Contact your insurer. Although less than 20 percent of homeowners in affected Texas counties have flood insurance, your homeowner or automobile policy may offer other types of coverage to aid in your short- or long-term recovery.
- Take care of yourself—and each other. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, there is often an upwelling of kindness and mutual support. But as the recovery period stretches on, frustrations can mount and patience can fray. Take a deep breath, get sleep, play when you can, eat well, practice your faith, and help one another.
Following are a number of resources that will be helpful:
- FEMA Texas Hurricane Harvey: This page includes a map of disaster declarations, links and phone numbers for disaster assistance, and easy-to-follow information about what to do and what to expect during the recovery period.
- FEMA Rumor Control: After a disaster, rumors create false hopes and false fears. This FEMA page debunks scams and verifies rumors that are circulating post-Harvey.
- Attorney General of Texas: Tips to Avoid Fraud in Aftermath of Disaster
- Freddie Mac: Getting Help After a Hurricane
- Fannie Mae: Urgent Notice for Homeowners Affected by Disasters
- S. Housing and Urban Development Disaster Assistance
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC): Dealing with a Weather Emergency: Getting Back on Your Feet Financially
At Sente Mortgage, we are deeply concerned about our Texas friends and neighbors affected by Hurricane Harvey. We know you have a baffling array of concerns and we are committed to providing up-to-date, accurate information to help with your recovery.