Finding Relief If You Have Been Affected By A Disaster

    If you live in an area that was affected by Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, or another disaster, you may be able to get special assistance. You can visit www.disasterassistance.gov to find out what kinds of federal help is available, apply for assistance, and to later check the status of your application.

    In addition, the U.S. Small Business Administration offers low interest disaster loans to help you rebuild and replace homes and businesses that were damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster. To get more information, you can go to the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Disaster Assistance at: www.sba.gov and click on the “Loans & Grants” tab.

Types of Benefits Available in an Area Declared a Disaster

    Housing & Shelter Assistance

    • Emergency Shelters may be available if you need to evacuate your home because of a natural disaster. To find shelters in your area, visit the Red Cross or the Salvation Army, or text the word SHELTER and your zip code to: 4FEMA (43362) (standard text message rates apply). To get immediate assistance in your area, you can also call the FEMA helpline at: (800) 621-3362 or (800) 462-7585 (TTY). You can also go to: www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance.
    • Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) Program helps you if you cannot return to your home after shelters have closed because of loss or damage. This program provides temporary assistance and helps pay for the cost of a hotel room while you look for long-term housing. To learn more about the program and whether you may qualify, go to: www.fema.gov/transitional-shelter-assistance. To find a hotel that participates in this program, go to: www.femaevachotels.com.
    • Mortgage Forbearance may be available if you live in an area affected by a hurricane (or other disaster) and you are having trouble making your mortgage payments. This means that you may be able to temporarily stop making mortgage payments without going into foreclosure. The payments are generally postponed, not forgiven. In addition, late fees may also be waived. Call your mortgage servicer (the company you send your mortgage payments) to see if they can work with you.
    • Camp for Free allows you to stay for free in a Texas state park, if you have been evacuated due to Hurricane Harvey. Be aware that some parks are closed due to the hurricane and you should call first to see if a particular park is available. You can also check this state park map to see if a park is open.

    Nutrition Assistance

    • Food Banks may be able to provide immediate food assistance. Feeding America can help you find a food bank in your area if you have an urgent need. Go to: www.feedingamerica.org and enter your zip code.

    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) may provide additional benefits if you are already enrolled and you live in an area affected by a disaster. Benefits may be available early or they may be increased to help you replace lost food. You may also be able to use your Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card to buy hot meals and other foods that are normally not allowed. For more information or to find out how to apply, call your state hotline.

      • If you are a Floridian who live in an area affected by Hurricane Irma, you may be able to use your SNAP benefits to buy hot and ready-to-eat food during the month of September and you may be able to get a replacement of 40% of your monthly SNAP benefits if you live in certain counties. You should go to: ACCESS Florida to get more detailed information. Also, if your benefits were due to expire in September, the renewal/re-certification process has been extended for one month, from 9/30/17 to 10/31/17. This extension is for Food Assistance (SNAP), Medicaid, and Temporary Cash Assistance.
    • Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) provides emergency food benefits if your area is a presidentially-declared disaster area and your state is offering the assistance. The eligibility standards are different than regular SNAP. If you qualify, you will get an EBT card to use at grocery stores. For more information, go to: www.disasterassistance.gov or call your state hotline.

      • If you were affected by Hurricane Harvey, you may be able to get D-SNAP if you live in certain counties in Texas. You can only get D-SNAP if you were not getting regular SNAP benefits before the disaster and you suffered disaster-related expenses. If you qualify, you will receive two months of SNAP benefits which should be available within 3 days of application. The amount is a standard SNAP benefit based on your family size. To get more information and to find out where you can apply, contact your county Texas Health and Human Services.
      • If you were affected by Hurricane Irma, you may be able to get D-SNAP (called Food for Florida) if you live in certain counties in Florida. Food for Florida is not available to current Food Assistance customers. You may be able to get Food for Florida benefits if you live in a designated county, your income is under the special D-SNAP limit, and you suffered disaster-related expenses. The program provides two months of SNAP benefits that you can use to buy groceries. To get more information and to find out how to apply, go to: www.myflfamilies.com/FFF.

    Health Care

    • Health Plans may be offering special assistance in your area. Many health plans are providing special hotlines, relaxing requirements for referrals, letting members refill their prescriptions early, and/or allowing members to go to providers who are out of their service area or network.

      • If you are a member of a health plan and you have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey, contact The Texas Association of Health Plans to find out what services are available through your health plan.
      • If you are a member of a health plan and you have been impacted by Hurricane Irma, contact your health plan or the Florida Association of Health Plans to find out what services are available to you.
    • Medicaid is giving a 30-day extension for you to submit your application for renewal if your annual renewal falls in September 2017. This is available if you live in Florida and were affected by Hurricane Irma. Also, if you certify monthly for the Medically Needy program, your September deadline may also be extended. Contact your county office for more information.
    • Medicare – Special Enrollment Period: If you were affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, or Maria, you may have an extended opportunity to enroll in or make changes to your Medicare health plan or prescription drug plan. If you qualify, you may be able to enroll or make changes through the end of the 2017 calendar year. Call (800) MEDICARE to find out if you qualify.
    • Federal Health Insurance Exchange is offering extended enrollment periods to people who live in or moved from an area affected by a disaster.

      • Special Enrollment Period: If you need to enroll in or make changes to a 2017 health plan through the Federal Health Insurance Exchange and you were affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, or Maria, you may have a longer time to do so. If you qualify, you may be able to enroll or make changes through the end of the 2017 calendar year. Whether you qualify depends on when you experienced the event that triggered a special enrollment period for enrollment in the Exchange and when you were impacted by a hurricane. Call the Exchange Call Center at: (800) 318-2596 to learn more or to enroll.
      • Annual Enrollment Period: If you live in an area affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, or Maria or you area moving from one of those areas, you may be eligible for an extension of the 2018 Annual Open Enrollment period. Call the Marketplace Call Center at: (800) 318-2596 to learn more and to enroll.

    Unemployment Assistance

    • Disaster Unemployment Assistance is available if you lost your job as a direct result of a disaster. You can get help if you applied for but do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits. In some cases, you may be eligible if you are a seasonal worker. This assistance is temporary.

    Tax Relief

    • Disaster Assistance and Emergency Relief Program provides you with tax counseling and assistance. Special tax law provisions are available to help you if you live in certain states affected by the disaster, especially if your location is declared a major disaster area. Get the details from www.irs.gov by going to the “Disaster Relief” section on the page. This page will be updated with new information for each disaster as information becomes available.
    • Property Tax Relief may also be available. Please contact your local tax office for more information.
    • The IRS is offering tax relief such as giving extended deadlines and other limited relief if you live or have a business in certain counties affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. For example, you can get free and expedited copies of your past tax returned.

    Energy Assistance

    • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Disaster Relief may be available in your area to help pay for your home energy needs and energy-related home repairs or installations. To find out if your state offers LIHEAP Disaster Relief and the type of help available, find the agency that provides LIHEAP assistance such as your local Department of Human Services (DHS), Community Action Agency, or Area Agency on Aging (AAA).

    Legal Assistance

    • State Bar of Texas (https://texasbar.com) can provide disaster response resources for the public and attorneys when a disaster strikes.

      • Legal Hotline (800) 504-7030 is a toll free hotline available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
      • Texas Legal Answers (https://texas.freelegalanswers.org) is a free online resource where volunteer lawyers will provide answer your civil legal questions.
      • State Bar’s Lawyer Referral & Information Service can help you find a lawyer: (800) 252-9690.
    • The Florida Bar (www.floridabar.org) matches you with a Florida lawyer who have volunteered to provide free legal help. The lawyers can help you get FEMA benefits; make life, medical and property insurance claims; deal with home repair contractors; and other disaster-related assistance.

      • Legal Hotline (866) 550-2929 can help you if you have been affected by Hurricane Irma and you can’t afford to pay for an attorney. You can call the hotline or complete the online intake form.
      • Florida Free Answers (https://florida.freelegalanswers.org) is a free online resource where volunteer lawyers can provide answers to your civil legal questions.

    Additional Disaster Relief Resources

    • The Red Cross has resources and advice for recovering from a disaster, including your home safety, emotional well-being, and financial recovery.
    • 2-1-1 Texas is the Texas Health and Humans Services Commission Helpline. The helpline provide free and anonymous information about state and local social services anywhere in Texas. It is available all day, seven days a week. You should call if you need help finding food, crisis counseling, housing, and so on. Just dial 2-1-1 or (877) 541-7905.
    • The Florida Division of Emergency Management (www.floridadisaster.org) can provide up-to-date disaster related information such as evacuation orders and assistance programs.
    • The Disaster Distress Helpline, offered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, offers a crisis hotline twenty four hours a day, seven days per week. If you are experiencing distress related to a disaster, you can call the helpline at: (800) 985-5990.
    • FEMA Resources for People with Disabilities has information and resources about disaster recovery specifically for people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs. You can find videos about registering for disaster assistance, housing assistance, and other helpful topics. The videos have both audio and American Sign Language (ASL).

    You can also get help and find benefit programs that provide you with cash assistance and other help by using BenefitsCheckUp.org. By answering a few questions, you can get a list of benefit programs that can help you pay for medications, food, utilities, and more. You will have access to program guidelines, websites, online forms (if available), paper application in various languages (if available), and other resources.