|How to file for post-hurricane financial
When you are a victim of a natural disaster such as
Hurricane Katrina, your recovery takes the form of a four-phase
Register as a person affected by the disaster;
Schedule inspections of your home and car;
Apply for help from the Small Business Administration;
Apply some more -- for grants, tax help and
Sometimes these phases overlap.
Register as a person affected
by the disaster
When a federal disaster is declared in your area, a member of your
household will be directed to call a toll-free number -- (800) 621-3362
-- to register your family with the Federal Emergency Management
Agency, or FEMA. Just one member of a household should call -- preferably,
a person who signed the deed or lease. If you are separated from
the rest of your family, go ahead and call. Let FEMA sort it out
if multiple people in the family have registered.
People who are hearing-impaired may call (800) 462-7585.
The number connects you to the Federal Emergency Management
Agency's national phone center. Among the questions you will be
- What's your name, the address of your damaged dwelling
and a phone number where you can be reached? If you don't have
a phone -- say, your house was destroyed and you're staying at
a shelter -- you'll be asked to provide the phone number of a
friend or relative who can reach you. If you can't provide a phone
number right away, you can always call later to give your contact
- What's your mailing address? You'll be asked for
directions for inspectors to reach the home. If your home was
destroyed and mail can't be delivered there, you'll be asked to
provide an address where you can get your mail. Otherwise, you'll
be told to pick up your mail at a post office.
- Are you a homeowner or renter?
- How many people live in your household?
- What's the household income?
- Generally, how much damage did your home and your
personal property sustain?
- Was the home insured? Were the contents insured?
You'll be given a disaster identification number. You'll use it
in your dealings with various government agencies. Don't lose the
Seriously. Don't lose the disaster identification number.
In most disasters, you should receive a packet from FEMA in a
week or so. With Hurricane Katrina, it might take longer. The
packet from FEMA will contain:
- A printout summarizing the information you supplied;
- Information about help you might qualify for,
such as low-interest loans, grants and emergency housing;
- Contact information for various agencies;
- A letter specifying which programs you have been
Besides registering with FEMA, make your situation known to insurance
companies, lenders and unemployment offices. Contact the insurance
companies that insure your home (whether it's a homeowner's or renter's
policy) and your car. If a loved one has died, contact the life
Call your lenders -- for mortgage, auto, student loans, credit
cards and other debts -- to let them know what's going on. If the
disaster puts you out of work, your creditors need to know. Federal
regulators have urged lenders to give borrowers a break. But you
have to contact your lenders. If you don't, they'll assume that
you are able to pay. You might wonder why they don't just forgive
late payments from certain ZIP codes. Keep wondering.