Where to go when a natural disaster wreaks havoc on your finances

Natural disasters can kill you in the blink of an eye, but it can take months to clear the financial damage. Yet those affected have many sources of help.

Here’s how you can get help and strategically use your resources when you start rebuilding after a disaster.

Meet your immediate needs first.

First of all: contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency and text postcode and “DRC” to 43362 for help through the Disaster Recovery Center. Text the same number with “Apple” or “Android” and the FEMA mobile app with additional resources such as shelter locations.

We can also support local and state agencies and non-governmental groups such as the Red Cross. For information, call 211 from any phone or visit 211.org.

Also check your credit card and hotel loyalty account. You can have points or a free hosting voucher. Most hotel loyalty programs offer a generous extension of the expiration of certificates that are no longer in use due to a pandemic. In addition, some general reward credit cards allow you to use your points to book hotels directly from your own travel portal or to transfer points to specific hotel loyalty programs.

Second, it tends to be a financial problem.

Look at the treatment of your finances as soon as possible. FEMA provides unemployment assistance, rental assistance, legal services and more. There are several ways to register, for example online at disastreassistance.gov, through the FEMA app, a disaster recovery center, or by calling 800-621-3362.

Money Management International, a nonprofit credit counseling institution, has a free program called Project Porchlight that offers victims up to one year of support. This program helps people navigate unfamiliar processes, meet deadlines, and deal with trauma that makes task processing difficult.

There are several tasks to manage.

Please contact your insurance company as soon as possible.

Act quickly to get the most out of your home, tenant’s compensation, or auto insurance.

Please check the policy regarding the types of damage covered, coverage limits and deductions. Home and home insurance usually doesn’t cover flood damage, so check your flood insurance as well. As long as you have full coverage for your auto insurance, flood and wind damage to your car will be covered.

Mark Friedlander, director of corporate communications at the Insurance Information Association, said in an email he would report the damage to the agency or insurance company as soon as possible. Insurance companies face a large number of claims, so the sooner you submit them the better.

According to Friedlander, find out about coverage, claims filing and processing times, whether claims exceed deductions, and whether you need a quote for structural damage repair. You will need to seek compensation for living expenses and car rental reimbursements if you move. Some insurance companies also cover the loss of spoiled food.

When talking to your insurance company, ask them what you can throw out and what you need to document for your claim. According to Friedlander, he will take photos and videos of the damage and do what he can to protect his property. Take detailed notes on all interactions with the insurance company.

Call your mortgage company and other creditors.

If you’re worried about your monthly mortgage payment, contact your mortgage agent as soon as possible to discuss your mortgage grace option before you miss a payment.

Foreclosure is a way to avoid foreclosure and may allow you to make partial payments or completely suspend payments for an agreed period.

Actively communicate with creditors, National Credit Counseling Foundation spokesperson Bruce McClary said in an email. Impassable roads, power outages, Internet access, and phone service are all factors that can keep you from paying on time. “If your creditors find out about these things, they might be able to give temporary relief from payments,” McClary said. The hardship program may temporarily exempt you from fees or lower interest rates.

You may need to use a credit card to receive money from an ATM as money is king in areas where electricity and communication are lost. Note that interest rates are generally higher, according to McClary.

Contact your university for assistance in applying for a student loan suspension.

Federal student loan payments remain suspended until January. However, some private student loan lenders can withstand natural disasters in these situations.

If your finances or those of your family are affected, please contact your school’s financial aid office. Learn about the expert’s judgment to reassess eligibility for financial assistance as circumstances change. You can also apply for more immediate funding through the school’s Emergency Financial Aid Fund.

If you are moving, please notify the financial aid office of your move. Inform teachers and counselors of changes in their ability to attend class and complete class assignments.

Be strategic with aid, credit, and debt when you dig.

Kate Bulger, senior director of business development at MMI, said in an email: “Today asking for as much help as possible and saving money means there is more money left when consumers are ready to rebuild. “

Once you run out of help and emergency funds, you will likely have to buy basic necessities or rely on credit to repair the damage. Recently, some major credit card issuers have made it easy (and cheaper) to convert available lines of credit into installment loans. In many cases, ongoing interest rates are low. Alternatively, you may be allowed to split a large emergency purchase into predictable monthly payments.

Once your debt situation is clear, consider strategies for paying off your balance. Debt Snowball, which focuses your efforts on minimum debt first, while keeping payments minimum to others, can give you quick wins and incentives.

Finally, be aware of debt relief options to tackle amounts that are beyond your repayment capacity.

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