Many if not most of Hurricane Harvey’s victims did not have flood insurance. Unfortunately, if you Google “what to do if you didn’t have flood insurance” you’ll pop up a ton of articles written by non-Texans pondered why so many Texans didn’t have flood insurance. They wonder this despite the fact that most of us don’t live in flood zones, and that even if you do have flood insurance, it often doesn’t cover the total loss of a home plus all its contents. For example, depending on your policy, you could be paying a $150 premium, but only have $20,000 in damage covered. That’s a drop in the bucket if your $300,000 house needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, and all your furniture is covered in raw sewage.
Oh, and about those flood maps: “Experts say Harvey’s extreme rainfall, which shocked a region accustomed to floods, raises questions about whether federal flood maps, which banks use in determining whether mortgage holders should have flood insurance, were an accurate reflection of the stormwaters that can flow through the region’s bayous and streets.” ~ The Houston Chronicle
Long story short, I sifted through the ignorance and found the facts so you wouldn’t have to.
Disaster Relief for Hurricane Harvey Victims
FEMA DISASTER ASSISTANCE: Some counties in Texas are eligible for individual disaster assistance. As of August 28, 2017, Aransas, Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Harris, Jackson, Kleberg, Liberty, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria, and Wharton Counties are all eligible. Whether you’re in one of these counties or not, specify that you are a Hurricane Harvey victim.
Registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, is the quickest way to register for FEMA assistance since the event will last several days and the full scope of damages may not be evident until the storm has passed. If you are unable to access the internet, you can also call at 1-800-621-3362. Currently, the application process is much faster online. If you have access to the Internet, apply that way.
TAX REFUNDS & IRS WRITE-OFFS: Speed up your tax return, or even file an amendment to last year’s return so you can catch a break or even get a larger refund. Special tax law provisions may help taxpayers and businesses recover financially from the impact of a disaster, especially when the federal government declares their location to be a major disaster area. Both individuals and businesses in a federally declared disaster area can get a faster refund by claiming losses related to the disaster on their tax return for the previous year. This is usually done by filing an amended return. Depending on the circumstances, the IRS may grant additional time to file returns and pay taxes. Learn more here: https://www.benefits.gov/benefits/benefit-details/4418
DEFER MORTGAGE / UTILITY BILLS / DEBT: Contact your mortgage company, bank, utility companies, credit card companies, and anyone you owe money to. Many companies are deferring bills for several months to help Hurricane Harvey survivors catch a break, get back on their feet, and breath a little easier. Think about how much it would help if you didn’t have to pay mortgage or credit card bills for two or three months!
DISASTER LEGAL AID & ATTORNEY SERVICES: Disaster Legal Services (DLS) provides legal assistance to low-income individuals who, prior to or as a result of a Presidentially declared major disaster, are unable to secure legal services adequate to meet their disaster-related needs. When the President declares a disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), through an agreement with the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association, provides free legal help for survivors of that disaster.
- Help with insurance claims for doctor and hospital bills, loss of property, loss of life, etc.
- Preparing new wills, powers of attorney, and other legal documents lost in the disaster
- Help with home repair contracts and contractors
- Advice on problems with landlords
HARRIS COUNTY – REBUILD HOUSTON TOGETHER: For 35 years, Rebuilding Together Houston has provided critical home repairs to homeowners who meet age, income and homeownership qualifications. These repairs enable homeowners to remain in their home–safe and dry. Rebuilding Together does not complete aesthetic or cosmetic exterior or interior repairs. Check out http://www.rebuildinghouston.org/homeowners.htm.
Photo courtesy of Carl Miller, Houston, Texas