Post-hurricane Irma: How to get financial help and manage debt

By: on 2017-09-14
Ask Sanders Patricia

Florida would certainly wipe out 2017 from its memory if that was possible mainly for 2 reasons:

  • Hurricane Irma and the massive devastation that followed
  • Being one of the top 5 states with heaviest credit card debt

Well, Floridians could do nothing to stop Hurricane Irma or the massive destruction it created apart from praying to the Lord Jesus. But they could have learned lessons from the recession and avoided credit card debt. Florida’s average credit card debt stood at $5,754 per household in 2016. This is $50 above the national average. This is not a good news since Floridians have to lot to handle right now.

The nation’s credit card debt has created a new record. It has crossed the $1.02 trillion mark. Trump has a new problem now. But even though nation’s credit card debt is sky high, Trump’s immediate concern is to help Floridians get back on track again. Credit card debt can be tackled later.

The onus is not just on the government to help disaster affected people get back to normal life. The onus is also on you to take steps to recover yourself and your family. Here are a few steps you can take to get financial help and manage debts after a natural disaster.

1 Call your cell phone carrier:

Ask your cell phone carrier to extend your call plan if there is the network. You have to make lots of calls now. Surely, you wouldn’t want to go into overage minutes, which are quite costly. Don’t let your cell phone bill go up. Don’t let your cell phone charge go below 40%. I know 6.7 million Floridians are without power. Keep your cell phone switched off unless you need to talk.

2 Get back to Florida with only $99:

Ask your cell phone carrier to extend your call plan if there is the network. You have to make lots of calls now. Surely, you wouldn’t want to go into overage minutes, which are quite costly. Don’t let your cell phone bill go up. Don’t let your cell phone charge go below 40%. I know 6.7 million Floridians are without power. Keep your cell phone switched off unless you need to talk.

3 Get FEMA and USDA assistance:

Government agencies like FEMA and USDA offer a lot of recovery programs that can assist you. Apply for these programs as soon as possible.

You can get details about USDA programs from here. You can also visit USDA Disaster Resource Center's website.

What kind of assistance can you get from FEMA?

  • You can get grants for repairing your home and replacing household items that are not insured to make damaged homes secure, hygienic, and functional.
  • Loans up to $500,000 are available for agricultural operators, ranchers, and farmers to recover property losses. Primary residence is excluded.
  • You can get rental payments for temporary housing if your present home is unlivable. Homeowners can get assistance for 3 months and renters can get assistance for 1 month. You can get additional assistance on request.
  • You can get unemployment benefits for 26 weeks if you have temporarily lost a job due to the disaster and can’t qualify for state benefits.
  • You can be eligible for low-interest loans for losses incurred on your residence that won’t be compensated by insurance.
  • You can obtain loans up to $200,000 on your primary residence

    You can qualify for $40,000 for your personal property

    You can obtain loans up to $2 million for business properties

  • You can get grants to replace personal property and cover funeral, medical, transportation, dental and other disaster related expenses that are not covered by insurance or federal aid programs.
  • Loans up to $2 million are available for small businesses, non-profit organizations, small agricultural cooperatives that have cash-flow problems due to the natural disaster. It’s obvious that a business needs to recover the damages incurred due to Hurricane Irma. FEMA is ready to reimburse up to $2 million.

How you can get FEMA assistance

  • Register online at
  • Call at the toll-free number: 1-800-621-FEMA (3362)
  • If you have speech disability or hearing loss, call 1-1800-462-7585
  • If you use video relay service, then call 1-800-621-3362

The toll-free numbers are working from 7 am to 10 pm every day.

Details you need to give

  • Daytime telephone number
  • Social Security Number
  • Zip code of the damaged property
  • Your current mailing address
  • Private insurance details

What can you do after registering online?

  • You can find out if individual assistance is available in the disaster affected area
  • Upload documents with your application
  • Monitor the status of your application. Get SMS or email alerts

4 Get back to work if you have a job:

Is your boss ready to pay you? If so, then get back to work as quickly as possible after the disaster. If your employer’s business is destroyed completely and can’t rehire you, then it’s time to think about other options.

5 Manage credit card debts later:

Life is more important than debt. You need food and warm clothes to survive. Debts can be managed later. So don’t worry about your credit card debts and mortgage loans now.

Contact your creditors and let them know about the situation you’re in. If you have lost your job, inform them. Most likely, you won’t have a regular income for a few weeks. So, inform creditors that you need time to make payments. Save the name of the customer care representative’s name and the date and time you called on your phone. You may need these details later.

Some tips to manage your debts

I Watch out for special programs:

Ask your creditors if they are offering any special payment forbearance programs. Avant, Wells Fargo, LightStream, Prosper, Discover, Mariner Finance, Lending Club, Upgrade, etc. have already taken temporary measures to help their customers. Find out if your lenders and creditors are also offering any special programs like waiving off late fees or not reporting to credit bureaus about late payments.

II Use one credit card:

There will be expenses. The cost of food and basic supplies will be high for a few days. Most importantly, you’ll need these things for survival. Use your credit cards to buy things that are necessary. Forget about all your luxury products. Try to not touch your savings and debit cards unless there is no other option.

III Don’t panic:

There are lots of credit card debt relief programs like debt settlement and debt consolidation programs. You can use these programs to pay off your credit card debts after the crisis is over. Your credit report and credit score are not more important than your life. A natural disaster changes a life, a relation, and many other things of a person.

IV Document everything:

Take pictures of your damaged home and furniture. You may need these items to prove that are speaking the truth to creditors and insurers.

Don’t worry! Relief is on the way

President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration on Sunday for faster recovery efforts. Hopefully, the local and state authorities will receive federal funding easily now.

What does this declaration mean for Floridians?

  • Government will give 75% reimbursement for all counties for cleaning debris
  • Florida residents in Miami-Dade, Charlotte, Hillsborough, Collier, Lee, Monroe, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties will receive direct federal assistance.
  • There will be full federal reimbursement for a month for all Florida counties giving emergency safety measures like evacuation, sheltering, emergency operation, and other emergency expenses. Once 30 days are over, 75% of these costs will be reimbursed by the federal government.

Gov.Rick Scott recently commented,

“It’s clear that the entire country is standing with Florida as Hurricane Irma batters our state right now”.

Yes. This is true. People all across the world are beside Floridians. We hope and pray that everything becomes normal and Floridians start living like the way they are used to.

Last Updated on: Thu, 14 Sep 2017

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