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The deadly tornadoes that swept through Kentucky and surrounding states last week served as a stark reminder that natural disasters can hit at any time, and often with little or no warning. Once they have hit, however, there are numerous ways to get federal help for those who have been impacted financially.
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The USA.gov website provides information on how to apply for financial assistance within natural disaster areas. Here’s a look at some of the options.
Disaster Relief Assistance
If your home or business suffered damage following a disaster, there are several ways to see if you qualify for financial help after a disaster, what might be available, and how to get it:
Disaster Unemployment Assistance
If you’ve lost your job as a direct result of a major disaster, you might be eligible for disaster unemployment assistance. If you own your own business, you might also qualify. Note that you are not eligible if you qualify for regular unemployment insurance benefits. Here’s what to do:
- Visit the Disaster Unemployment Assistance web page to see if you’re eligible for assistance, view the benefits you might receive, and get information on how to file a claim.
- Visit the Department of Labor’s Severe Storm and Flood Recovery Assistance page to see if you qualify for income and job assistance after a disaster. You can also call 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365) for more information.
Food Cost Relief
If the president authorizes individual disaster assistance for your area, you might qualify for the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or D-SNAP. These benefits are typically available if you’re out of work or have reduced or delayed income due to the disaster, or you are facing costly home repairs or temporary shelter expenses. Once your state sets up a D-SNAP program, you have about a week to apply. If you do qualify, you should receive the benefits within three days.
Emergency Help with Utility Bills
If you can’t afford to heat or cool your home after a disaster, you might qualify for emergency help with energy bills through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). If you qualify, the program can pay to reconnect utilities, pay a utility bill, repair or replace your furnace and air conditioners, repair your home insulation, buy coats and blankets and buy fans and generators
To get help, you must meet your local LIHEAP office’s eligibility requirements and your state must have funds available. Keep in mind that FEMA does not help with emergency electric or utility payments. However, local social services agencies or charitable organizations might offer short-term help. Visit 211.org online or call 211 to find local agencies that may be able to help.
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