How do I Apply for Disaster Relief During COVID-19?
Q: My home and possessions have sustained considerable damage from a recent natural disaster. What do I need to know about applying for disaster relief during a pandemic?
A: Recovering from a natural disaster like a wildfire or a hurricane is never easy. Throw in a lingering pandemic and it becomes even more challenging. Luckily, though, help is available to those who need it, even during COVID-19.
Here’s all you need to know about applying for, receiving and offering relief for recovery from natural disasters during a pandemic.
How do I apply for relief?
If you have been directly impacted by a recent natural disaster, you are likely to be eligible for financial relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Financial assistance from FEMA can help cover the costs of rent, home repair, home replacement, child care, medical care and treatment and other disaster-related needs.
Before you apply, it’s best to contact your home insurance provider to file a claim for the damages caused by the disaster. You’ll need evidence of the disaster, so snap some photos or shoot a video of your damaged home and/or possessions before you start any cleanups or repairs.
For uninsured or underinsured losses, you can contact FEMA online at disasterassistance.gov(link is external), download the FEMA app and register for relief on your mobile device or call 800-621-3362 to apply for financial relief.
What kind of information will I need for FEMA?
Before reaching out to FEMA, it’s best to have the following information on hand:
- Your Social Security number
- Insurance policy information
- Address of the damaged dwelling
- A description of the damage and losses caused by the disaster
- Current mailing address
- Current telephone number
- Total household annual income
- Diamond Valley’s routing number
- Your checking- or savings-account number
After registering, you’ll be directed to create an account. Remember your account details; you’ll need them to check the status of your application, view messages from FEMA, update your personal information and upload important documents.
How will my home be inspected for damage during COVID-19?
An important distinction between your application for disaster relief during normal times and during COVID-19 is the way your home will be inspected for damage. Due to the restrictions set in place to reduce spread of the virus, FEMA inspections are now being conducted remotely by phone.
You can expect an inspection call within three days of submitting your application, but be prepared to wait longer. For security purposes, the inspector will verify your identity through a series of qualifying questions. You’ll be asked to provide the last four digits of your registration ID and the inspector will complete the verification process by confirming the first four digits.
The remote inspection will take the form of questions asked by the inspector regarding the nature and severity of the damage your home sustained.
It’s also important to note that disaster survivors whose homes have only sustained minimal damage will not automatically be scheduled for a home inspection when applying for FEMA.
How can I help disaster victims?
If you’re fortunate to live in an area that has not been ravaged by recent wildfires or hurricanes, you can help accelerate the recovery process for others by donating to authentic relief organizations. Here are just a few of the national and local organizations helping victims of recent disasters.
- The Red Cross(link is external) provides food, shelter and relief supplies to victims of the fires and hurricanes.
- Baby2Baby(link is external) distributes essential baby items like diapers, wipes, portable cribs and blankets to families affected by fires. You can donate here(link is external) , or buy supplies directly off its Amazon registry(link is external).
- The California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund(link is external) supports relief and recovery efforts for communities affected by wildfires.
- The California Fire Foundation(link is external) is distributing $250 gift cards to victims to use for basic necessities that were lost in the fires.
- The Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana(link is external) is collecting donations to be distributed to local organizations supporting relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Laura.
- Americares(link is external) has set up a relief fund to support its deliveries of medicine and personal protective equipment to disaster areas.
Weathering a natural disaster during a pandemic isn’t easy, but there is relief available to those who need it. If you’ve been hit by a recent disaster, you can get the help you need to recover.