Hurricane Florence left a wake of destruction along the East Coast, dumping around nine trillion gallons of water in North Carolina, according to The Weather Channel, causing record-breaking levels of flooding that left far-reaching land and homes temporarily unlivable.
One week later military families returned to the hurricane-damaged area, particularly near Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, to begin the recovery process. Then there are those military families who once considered this patriotic town their home. They still own property in the area after choosing to rent out their house rather than try to sell due to the difficulties encountered when military families are uprooted on PCS orders and only have a short period of time to relocate.
“The uncertainty of not knowing how Hurricane Florence would impact our home was an emotional roller coaster,” said Ursula Ramos, Marine Corps spouse currently stationed in Okinawa, Japan. “We watched the news all day just trying to catch a glimpse of our neighborhood condition.”
Thousands of North Carolina residents are still displaced after Hurricane Florence, many in shelters and motels. For military families, the recovery struggles are superimposed on top of ongoing issues of deployments, mental health, unemployment, and frequent moves.
People who have endured disasters before have a saying, it’s not about surviving the hurricane. It’s about surviving after the hurricane.
Ramos added, “We couldn’t get in touch with our property manager for six days after the storm passed and we had no idea if our insurance would cover us, where to get assistance or how would we even start the claims process.”
So, where do you start? Amongst mounds of debris, downed power lines, flooded roads, and uprooted trees, there’s tons of paperwork and a fragmented disaster relief assistance process to navigate.
Here’s where military families can get help after a natural disaster:
First, if you own homes at duty stations that you no longer live at, FEMA Disaster Assistance does not cover second homes, according to Alex Bruner of FEMA’s Office of Public Affairs.
However, those survivors that have experienced damage on their second homes can apply for an SBA loan.
There are three ways individuals who have damages or have had to evacuate their primary residence can apply for FEMA/state assistance.
1. Register online.
2. Call the toll-free registration number at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).
3. Register at a Disaster Recovery Center in your area.
You will receive a nine-digit number for your registration. Protect this number the same as if it was your Common Access Card. This number will be one of your unique identifiers throughout the entire claims process. You will also need your social security number, current mailing address, damaged home address, phone numbers, type of insurance coverage, total household annual income, and a routing and account number from your bank if you want to have disaster assistance funds transferred directly into your bank account. If you’re eligible for assistance, you will receive a check or an electronic deposit notification from the U.S. Treasury Department or the state approximately ten days after the inspection.
To debunk the rumors being shared on social media, FEMA does not compensate for evacuation expenses, even if the evacuation was mandatory. Hotel expenses may be eligible for reimbursement if the home was damaged to the extent you could not return for an extended period of time, so retain your verifiable hotel/motel lodging receipts. Food and gasoline are not reimbursable, regardless of whether the homes were damaged.
FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program Speeds Recovery
Service members should contact their insurance companies and begin processing their insurance claims. To help lessen the financial burden, FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) will allow advance payments of $5,000 to policyholders on claims for damage and loss as a result of the storm without an adjuster visit or additional documentation.
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
The Society offers evacuation assistance for gas, food, and shelter. For those directly impacted by the disaster, NMCRS can assist with insurance deductibles, food replacement, and other essential items. So far, the organization has received more than 2,200 requests for assistance since Hurricane Florence was forecasted, according to Shelley Marshall, Vice President, Chief Development and Communications Officer for NMCRS.
Air Force Aid Society
Helps relieve the financial distress of Air Force members and their families through interest-free loans and grants that are for short-term or one-time emergencies such as food, rent and utilities, car repairs, and emergency travel requirements. For help, call 800-769-8951 or visit the nearest aid office.
Army Emergency Relief
Provides both grants and zero interest loans when soldiers or their families are faced with financial or family emergencies. To apply, call 866-878-6378 or visit the nearest aid office.
Coast Guard Mutual Assistance
Coast Guard Mutual Assistance help service members of the Coast Guard and their families involving everyday essentials including emergency, housing, education, medical and other financial needs. To apply for aid, you will first need to contact your local Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Representative. For more information, call the National Headquarters office at (800) 881-2462.
American Red Cross
If you’re not near a branch service aid program, the Red Cross can help process the request. Also, download the FREE Hero Care App or text: “GETHEROCARE” to 90999 and access vital emergency and non-emergency resources for military members, veterans and military families. Service ranges from responding to emergency needs for food, clothing, and shelter, referrals to counseling services (e.g., financial, legal, mental health), respite care for caregivers, and other resources.
Navy Federal Credit Union
Assistance includes special credit options for new and current credit cardholders, assistance on existing loans with a possible option to defer your payments for up to 90 days, new loans up to $15,000 for related damages or evacuation expenses and more.
Marine Federal Credit Union
Each member’s situation may be different, and assistance will be provided accordingly. This includes, but not limited to, loan payment deferral, fee reimbursements, credit card advances, and personal loans and up to 90 days of mortgage disaster relief.
If you are in need of home repairs or are otherwise experiencing financial hardship because of Hurricane Florence, you may be eligible for assistance and are encouraged to apply for help. Please call Operation Homefront directly at 877-264-3968, and a caseworker will assist you in making an emergency application for our Critical Financial Assistance program.
Job loss aid
Those who lost their job due to Florence and who live in designated disaster counties might be eligible for unemployment benefits even if they normally wouldn’t qualify or if they have already used up their regular unemployment benefits. Business owners affected by the storm may also qualify for benefits.
The deadline to apply is Oct. 18, 2018.
Small business aid
If you own your own business, you may also be eligible for low-interest loans through the Small Business Administration. The state and federal governments are also extending some tax filing deadlines — which had passed on Sept. 7 — until Jan. 31, 2019 for certain people and small businesses.
Keep in mind
If your community is stricken you’re probably trying to make sense of how to deal with the stress of the situation. “Feeling that there is no time to address emotional needs is completely understandable but it can be counterproductive,” said Dr. Gabriela Failing, EdD, LPC and Navy spouse.
She added “While military families are experts in terms of being resilient and flexible, they also face more stressors than typical families. So, recovering from a natural disaster may be co-occurring with an upcoming deployment or moving to a new duty station. To ensure you’re able to attend to recovery while simultaneously coping with everyday military life you’ve to take care of yourself, physically and emotionally.”
Failings advises “to ask for help and accept help if it’s being offered to you, remain flexibles, stay organized and practice gratefulness and kindness.”
These times are hard, they’re hard for everybody. Make it a priority to be kind to all around you.Read comments