If a flood wrecks your house and belongings, and you don’t have flood insurance, you may feel as though you’ve lost everything. But once the floodwaters recede, help is available to get you back on your feet.
Your first step: Check your insurance. Although your homeowners policy likely won’t cover flood damage, your auto policy might. If a flood damages or destroys your vehicle, it’ll likely be covered — minus your deductible — as long as you have comprehensive coverage on your auto policy.
Some homeowners policies will cover expenses associated with mandatory evacuation orders, so if you had to pay for a hotel or meals while away from home, save your receipts and see if your insurer will reimburse you.
For assistance beyond what your insurer provides, turn to the following sources.
You can apply for grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency once the president declares your state a major disaster area and your county is named for individual assistance.
FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program provides up to $36,000 per household for temporary housing, repairs and construction, plus up to an additional $36,000 for other post-disaster needs. The money can’t duplicate what insurance provides, but it can supplement it, and you don’t need to pay it back.
You can apply for FEMA grants to:
Rent a place to live if your home is uninhabitable. If no rental units are available, you can apply for temporary housing. The help is for up to three months initially, with a maximum of 18 months.
Repair damage or replace belongings not covered by insurance.
Help to pay other disaster-related expenses, such as funerals, medical and dental help, and child care.
In rare cases, FEMA may pay to build permanent or semi-permanent housing in locations where other alternatives aren’t feasible.
Federal grants are available only for your primary home, not for second homes. At least one person in your household must be a U.S. citizen or meet certain requirements for noncitizens.
To check eligibility and apply for a grant, visit DisasterAssistance.gov.
SBA disaster loans
If you need more assistance than FEMA grants can provide, consider applying for a low-cost loan through the Small Business Administration. SBA loans are the most common form of federal disaster assistance. You don’t have to own a business to qualify.
The loans are only for uninsured damage to your primary residence. Terms are for up to 30 years, with a maximum interest rate of 4% if you can’t get credit from another lender and 8% if you can. Here are the loans available, along with some of the restrictions:
Up to $200,000 to repair or replace your primary home. You can’t use the loan to make upgrades or additions unless they’re required by building codes.
Up to $200,000 to refinance a mortgage. This is available only if you can’t get credit elsewhere, suffered uncovered damage and plan to make repairs.
Up to $40,000 to replace damaged belongings, such as clothing, furniture and appliances. These loans are available to both renters and homeowners.
State, county and local government services
If you need help, don’t limit yourself to federal aid. FEMA recommends that survivors reach out to their local emergency management departments to find more information about available resources.
Local governments may be able to point you to free meals, provide disaster unemployment assistance and help with applications for federal aid.
Nonprofit organizations spring into action in the aftermath of a flood. One of the best-known is the American Red Cross, which offers shelter, meals, cleanup supplies and sometimes one-on-one assistance with recovery planning.
“In some situations, the Red Cross may provide financial support directly to people who need extra help,” Greta Gustafson, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross, wrote in an email. “This assistance can help pay for a deposit on a new apartment, replace lost clothing or other belongings, cover transportation expenses or [pay for] any other urgent need.” Such support is generally directed toward the most vulnerable victims of each disaster.
Local chapters of United Way may be able to assist with cleanup, repairs to your home and even mortgage or rent payments if you’ve lost your source of income in the disaster.
If you’re not sure where to turn for help, call 211 or visit 211.org to find services in your area.