Getting back on your feet after a natural disaster can require some help, which can come in many forms that go beyond the immediate relief charities often provide.
Here’s a few ways the federal government offers help to disaster victims:
Short-term shelter can be an immediate need after a hurricane or other disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has a website with an interim housing resource page that includes links to grants and help for finding long-term housing.
To search for open shelters in your area, text SHELTER and your zip code to 4FEMA.
Quick Funds via Retirement Withdrawal
The IRS usually penalizes early withdrawals from 401(k) and 403(b) retirement accounts; however, after Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, the IRS allowed victims to take loans and hardship withdrawals against their retirement accounts without tax penalties. California wildfire victims are also eligible.
When an area is declared a federal disaster area, the IRS automatically marks all taxpayers in that area as eligible for relief. Disaster victims can get tax relief from the IRS with tax filing and payment extensions. Claiming losses on tax returns may also lower the amount of taxes you owe.
Local Relief Funds
Many types of local resources are available for disaster victims. DisasterAssistance.gov can help you find local resources and apply for assistance via a map of the closest FEMA Disaster Recovery Center.
Help for Businesses
The U.S. Small Business Administration, or SBA, provides help to homeowners, renters and businesses of all sizes that are in a declared disaster area. Financial assistance is available through low-interest, long-term loans for losses that aren’t fully covered by insurance or other recovery programs.
Price Gouging Prevention
Charging inflated prices for necessities such as water or gas is illegal after a natural disaster. This type of price gouging should be reported to your state attorney general.
FEMA and the SBA often hire temporary workers in affected areas after a natural disaster to speed recovery efforts. Current openings are listed on the FEMA website, such as for hurricane workers, and SBA also lists hurricane response jobs.