The wind, rain and storm surge a hurricane produces can destroy homes and communities leaving a long-lasting, devastating effects. For example, Hurricane Laura, which ravaged the Gulf Coast region of the U.S. in late August 2020, caused an estimated $8-$12 billion in insured losses to homes and businesses.
The days and weeks following a hurricane can be a stressful and confusing. Those hardest hit require both short-term and long-term assistance, but where can they find it? Fortunately, a robust system has been built over the years to help people get back on their feet following a hurricane. Aid can come from different government agencies, nonprofits and even local churches. Many of these programs provide needed supplies in the hours after a hurricane, some offer long-term help and others get involved before a storm hits.
Federal Disaster Response Assistance
Many different agencies and programs exist at the federal level to help you recover from a hurricane. The benefits are diffuse and include everything from housing assistance to unemployment insurance.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the place to go if you need housing. FEMA offers different forms of assistance, including funds for temporary housing, such as hotel stays. The organization also provides mobile housing units to those whose homes were damaged or destroyed. The agency even distributes funds to help repair owner-occupied homes. FEMA's website also includes links to other resources that may be useful.
Department of Labor
The United States Department of Labor (DOL) assists those whose employment has been negatively impacted by hurricanes and other natural disasters. Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) provides up to 26 weeks of financial support to people who lost their job or cannot reach their job because of a hurricane, or whose place of business has been damaged by a storm. The amount of support available varies by state.
Disaster Assistance Improvement Program
The Disaster Assistance Improvement Program (DAIP) is a one-stop shop for disaster survivors to find resources and disaster assistance. On DAIP's website, you'll find links to more than 70 different types of assistance from 17 different federal agencies. There are also links to find food and other supplies. The DAIP site makes it easy to apply for aid to various organizations by filling out one form. Both businesses and individuals can use this form.
Paying taxes might be the last thing on your mind in the aftermath of a major storm. Still, the Internal Revenue Service has a program to help taxpayers affected by a disaster. If a hurricane impacts your ability to file your taxes, you might qualify for an extension. This delay might not seem like a big deal considering the circumstances, but the extra time will ease some of your burdens.
Nonprofit Disaster Response Assistance
The nonprofit sector plays a major role in helping people recover from a hurricane and other natural disasters. Assistance takes many different forms, from food and medicine to shelter.
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross does a little bit of everything. The organization helps distribute food, water and medicine. The Red Cross also sets up shelters, provides clean-up supplies and helps those impacted create recovery plans.
DirectRelief gets involved before a storm hits. The nonprofit sends supplies to secure locations in vulnerable areas. These supplies are typically medications that are distributed to different partner organizations. DirectRelief helps recovery efforts by providing funds to the hardest hit.
Heart to Heart
Heart to Heart provides medical care and supplies to disaster victims. The organization sends medical kits to affected areas and sets up clinics to help treat the sick or injured.
Convoy of Hope
Convoy of Hope has four warehouses in the United States and a "specialized disaster response fleet" that mobilizes in the event of a hurricane or other disaster. Convoy of Hope provides victims with food, clean water and hygiene kits.
Other Forms of Assistance
The federal government and nonprofits aren't the only ones who step up to help following a disaster like a hurricane. If you look around your community, you'll likely find many local organizations that are also willing to help.
Houses of worship
Churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship have started to play a larger role in disaster response. This effort is partially due to the creation of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The Center encourages cooperation between the federal government and religious institutions. For example, the partnership has helped create Georgia's Praise and Preparedness program, which provides congregations with resources to aid in recovery. If you belong to a church, synagogue or mosque, reach out to determine if they have a disaster response plan and what resources are offered.
Homeless shelters and food banks
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development keeps a list of homeless shelters on its site listed by state. Also, Feeding America has a searchable database of food banks it services. You can also find more food banks and pantries in your area by going online and searching for additional local resources.
The Bottom Line
Hurricanes can cause devastating damage to homes and businesses. Fortunately, there are many different assistance programs to help people rebuild — from federal assistance programs like FEMA to nonprofits like the American Red Cross. There are also often local recovery resources available to those in need, such as assistance from churches, food banks and shelters. If you are impacted by a hurricane, reach out and get the help you need to get back on your feet.
Photo by SDI Productions / GettyImages