UPDATE: This article has been revised to include information regarding Hurricane Irma.
In the wake of back-to-back hurricanes that pummeled Texas and Florida, storm victims are struggling to survive after the loss of their homes, cars, businesses, jobs and more. The first thing individuals and small-business owners should do is register for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The agency already has approved $57 million in financial assistance for more than 90,000 Harvey survivors.
Here’s what you need to do to apply for assistance: FEMA asks survivors who have internet access to register for aid at DisasterAssistance.gov. If you can’t get online, call 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585 (TTY). Registering will enable FEMA to begin the process of determining your eligibility for aid and services.
The aid FEMA provides includes:
- Transitional sheltering assistance, which helps people who won’t be able to return to their homes for an extended period of time move from emergency shelters to hotels or motels. FEMA will contact registrants who are eligible for this program — which covers the cost of the room and taxes.
- Two months of rental assistance for eligible survivors who can’t return to their own homes. The agency is using coastal depth and flooding data to speed up the process.
- Households with urgent needs such as first aid, prescription drugs, infant formula, diapers, and medical supplies and equipment — as well as fuel for transportation or other necessities — may qualify for a one-time limited Critical Needs Assistance payment per household.
- Business owners may be eligible for low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA) of up to $200,000 to fix a primary residence, $40,000 to replace personal property, and $2 million for physical business damages and economic losses resulting from the storm.
- The agency is hiring temporary workers to process claims and provide information to survivors. Work locations include California, Maryland, Nevada and Texas. The application is available online.
During disasters like Harvey and Irma, reliable information can be a valuable commodity. To fight the misinformation that can spread quickly during a crisis, FEMA has a "Rumor Control" page on its website. Another resource is the FEMA mobile app, which offers updates as developments occur.