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Finding Relief When Disaster Strikes: 7 Disaster Assistance Programs That Can Help

If you were a victim of the devastating wildfires that swept through Tennessee just three days ago on Nov. 28—which destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses—or if you live in another area that recently declared a disaster, you can get help from the federal government. You can visit DisasterAssistance.gov to find out what kinds of help you can get, apply for assistance, and to later check the status of your application.

In addition, you can also get low interest disaster loans to help you rebuild and replace homes and businesses that were damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster. To get more information, go to the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Disaster Assistance at: SBA.gov and click on the “Loans & Grants” tab.

Read on to learn about seven programs you may be able to take advantage of now that can provide relief during devastating natural disasters.

Nutrition assistance

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). If you are already getting SNAP (or food stamps) you may be able to get extra cash or replace some of your benefits. You may also be able to use your EBT card to buy hot meals and other foods normally not allowed. Find out what types of SNAP benefits you can get in your state by visiting the Food and Nutrition Service and click on “Disaster Assistance.”
  • Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP). This program provides emergency food benefits if your state is declared a disaster area by the President and is offering the assistance. To find out if D-SNAP is offered in your area, visit DisasterAssistance.gov.

Tax relief

  • Disaster Assistance and Emergency Relief Program. This program provides you with tax counseling and assistance. Special tax law provisions are available to help you if you live in certain states affected by a disaster, especially if your location is declared a major disaster area. Get the details from IRS.gov and search for disaster relief.
  • Property Tax Relief. may also be available. Contact your local tax office for more information.

Shelter assistance

  • Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) Program. This program helps if you cannot return to your home due to loss or damages. The program provides temporary assistance and helps pay the cost of the hotel room while you look for long-term housing. Go to: FEMA Evacuee Hotel List to find a hotel that participates in this program.
  • FEMA Housing Portal. This service lets you enter basic information so that you can get a list of rentals in your area if you cannot get back into your home. To find a home, go to: FEMA.gov and search “housing portal.”

Energy assistance

  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Disaster Relief. This program may be available in your area to help pay for your home energy needs and energy-related home repairs or installations. To find out if your state offers LIHEAP Disaster Relief and the type of help available, you should contact the agency that provides LIHEAP assistance such as your local Department of Human Services (DHS), Community Action Agency, or Area Agency on Aging (AAA).

Find additional assistance

  • BenefitsCheckUp®. You can also get help finding benefit programs that provide cash assistance and other help by using BenefitsCheckUp.org. By answering a few questions, you can get a list of benefit programs that can help you pay for medications, food, utilities, and more. You will have access to program guidelines, websites, online application forms (if available), paper application in various languages (if available), and other resources.

Do you know of other benefits or resources in your area that help to provide relief to natural disaster victims? Please share in the comments below.

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About Brandy Bauer

Brandy Bauer is Communications Manager for Economic Security at NCOA, where she educates both aging network professionals and consumers about Medicare and opportunities to improve seniors’ economic outlook, including through public benefits, community service employment, financial education, and using their home equity wisely.

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