How to get financial assistance after hurricane

Insurance deductibles higher for named storms

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With many people struggling to afford repairs on the damage inflicted by Hurricane Matthew, some are now looking to federal and local agencies for help.

Other than an insurance claim, there are two main options for help -- federal monies and local money in a program that Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry set up. But many people don't know how to get access to it. 

Brittany is a single mom receiving food stamps to help her raise her two sons. They recently moved to the Empire Point neighborhood in Arlington and now owe $600 in storm-related expenses. She would love some help to cover the cost, but has no idea how to get it.  

Scott Mager, a disaster relief expert from South Florida, said you need to start by contacting your insurance company, if you have insurance, or contacting the Federal Emergency Management Agency directly through its website.

"You want to simultaneously notify each of them to start the process," Mager said. "You want to make sure you get pictures or video of damage and document the damage you have."

Anyone can apply for FEMA relief, but the process isn't easy, Mager said. 

"For example, in Florida, many people are going to the FEMA site and they're finding that their area is not designating as a disaster area. That's actually not true. What happens, if you go to floridadisaster.gov site, they have identified counties who have not even requested individual assistance. The public assistance has been given, but the individual assistance programs have not been approved yet," Mager said.

To apply for disaster assistance from FEMA, call 800-621-3362 or click here.

It's not just FEMA and insurance that can help. Curry just set up a First Coast Relief Fund that's sending money to various charities to help people who need it.

To apply, call 211. It's a United Way-backed call service that will point you to which charities received that money. It can help you find the best one for you.

Insurance deductibles higher for named storms

Homeowners looking for help from their insurance companies may be in for a rude awakening when they discover a higher homeowner's deductible than expected. 

The reality of insurance deductibles is that if there's a named storm, homeowners pay more, which is what Mark Matthews is dealing with after a tree on his neighbor's property fell on his house during Hurricane Matthew.

"The regular deductible is $1,000 and a hurricane is $6,000," Matthews said. "So it's not a great process. It's nothing you want to go through after evacuating. But we're still here to complain about it."

VIDEO: How to deal with insurance surprises

Mager said it's true that deductibles due to named storms can be higher. But if you don't have the money, there are options. 

"You can work with these certified repair people that you deal with. Certified general contractors, roofers and these other individuals will work with you on payment structures or working on the payment that's received and using that money to fix your roof or house or to perform the internal or external repairs," Mager said.

For example, if you need $20,000 for repairs and your deductible is $5,000, which you can't pay upfront, insurance will pay $15,000 and you may be able to work out a payment plan with the contractor. 

But Mager said to always get any payment plan or discount in writing.

"I want to emphasize, if you hire a roofer or a general contractor or plumber, anybody who’s going to work on your home, make sure they are registered, they are licensed. Make sure they have insurance. Have them give you a certified copy of insurance that shows it’s enforced," Mager said.

Mager also said other funding sources, such as FEMA or the city’s First Coast Hurricane Relief Fund, can help you with a deductible. 

HUD announced help for those affected by Matthew

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro announced Tuesday that HUD will speed federal disaster assistance to the states of North Carolina, Florida and Georgia and provide support to homeowners and low-income renters who were forced from their homes due to Hurricane Matthew.  This week, President Obama issued a disaster declaration for the following counties:

Florida: Brevard, Duval, Flagler, Indian River, Nassau, St. Johns, St. Lucie and Volusia counties
Georgia: Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty and McIntosh counties
North Carolina: Beaufort, Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Edgecombe, Hoke, Lenoir, Nash, Pitt and Robeson counties

The President’s declaration allows HUD to offer foreclosure relief and other assistance to certain families living in these counties.

To learn more, click here.

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