As the recovery process for Hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma continues, federal officials offer the following advice:
Apply for disaster assistance. The quickest way to apply for federal disaster assistance is online through DisasterAssistance.gov. If you don't have access to the Internet, you can apply by phone. Call 1-800-621-3362.
Be on the lookout for scam artists and fraud. Remember you never have to pay a fee to apply for federal disaster assistance. If someone tells you that you do, it's a scam. Other common fraud includes phony house inspectors and fake donation requests. Follow these tips to avoid scams and fraud after a disaster.
Find help if you're feeling distressed. You can talk to a professional who can help you cope with emotional distress from the storm by calling the Disaster Distress Line at 1-800-985-5990 or texting TalkWithUs to 66746.
Know where to find trusted information. After major storms, rumors circulate and scammers may try to take advantage of you. Make sure you know what's real and what's fake. Check FEMA's rumor control page for Maria or for Harvey for trusted storm and recovery updates.
For the latest information (in multiple languages) on Harvey, visit FEMA.gov or follow USAGov and FEMA on Twitter.
Currently, the application process is much faster online. If you have access to the Internet, apply that way. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.
Infographic: What to Expect After You Apply for FEMA Aid
Learn what happens after you apply for federal disaster aid.
You may receive an application to apply for a low-interest, long term SBA Disaster Loan. Completing the SBA loan application is an important step in finding out what aid may be available to you.
As a homeowner you may borrow up to $200,000 to repair or replace your primary residence and up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property. You are not required to accept the loan to receive FEMA assistance, but it may enable you to be considered for different types of assistance.
After you apply
An inspector will contact you to schedule a visit.
Be ready to:
Keep your schedule appointment:
Appointments take 30-40 minutes, and you must be present.
Contact your insurance agent if you have insurance
Prove your identity.
Show these documents:
Photo ID: driver's license or passport
Proof of occupancy: lease or utility bill
Proof of ownership: deed, title, mortgage payment book, or tax receipts
During the Inspector's Visit
wear official FEMA ID badges.
confirm your disaster registration number.
review structural and personal property damage.
ask you to sign official documentation.
verify ownership and occupancy.
cost any money.
ask for credit card information.
take the place of an insurance inspection.
After the Inspector's Visit
You will be sent a decision letter.
If you are approved for aid:
You will receive a check or an electronic funds transfer.
A follow-up letter will explain how the funds can be used.
How to Replace Your Lost or Destroyed Vital Documents
Replacing all vital documents that were lost or destroyed in a flood, fire, or other disaster can be overwhelming. Although the process varies state to state, these general steps can help you get started.
Replace your birth certificate. Find the vital records office in the state where you were born. Check to find out if you can obtain a certified copy of your birth certificate without any identification and follow the instructions. A few states don’t require a government-issued photo ID, or accept other solutions like a sworn statement of your identity. Some states allow your mother or father whose name is on the birth certificate to submit a notarized letter with a copy of their photo ID. If you do need your own government-issued photo ID to get a copy of your birth certificate, start with step 2.
Government agencies usually mail replacement vital documents. But if your home was destroyed in a disaster, you might not be able to get your mail. Contact your local post office and ask if you can pick up your mail there or request to have your mail forwarded to a temporary location.
After an emergency, such as a hurricane or tornado, gas stations may raise gas prices to levels that are very high, unreasonable, and unfair. This is called price gouging and it is illegal. If you believe that you are a victim of price gouging, contact your state attorney general.
After a disaster, many people want to volunteer their services or donate money or goods. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides information and tips on volunteering and donating responsibly after a natural disaster.
Do not just "show up" to volunteer assistance. This actually makes things harder for responders. The following groups and organizations provide information on helping survivors of natural disasters:
If you suspect you've encountered disaster fraud report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at (866) 720-5721. The line is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, emails can be sent to email@example.com, and information can be faxed to (225) 334-4707.