WHAT BENEFITS CAN I APPLY FOR TODAY?
UPDATED OCTOBEr 16, 2018
If Irma made your primary home unlivable or you have incurred disaster related expenses not otherwise covered, you may be eligible for FEMA benefits. FEMA awards benefits on a household basis, make sure only one person applies per address. See the LSGMI guide below for further eligibility guidelines. You have until December 10, 2018 (60 days from the date of the disaster declaration, plus any extensions granted) to apply for assistance.
Available Benefits May Include:
Temporary Housing (a place to live for a limited period of time): Financial assistance may be available to homeowners or renters to rent a temporary place to live. If no rental properties are available, a government housing unit may be provided, but only as a last resort.
Lodging Expenses Reimbursement: Reimbursement of hotel expenses for homeowners or renters may be available for short periods of time due to inaccessibility or utility outage if not covered by insurance or any other program.
Repairs: Financial assistance may be available to homeowners to repair disater-caused damage to their primary residence that is not covered by insurance. The goal is to make the damaged home safe, sanitary, or fit to occupy.
Replacement: Financial assistance may be available to homeowners to replace their home destroyed in the disaster that is not covered by insurance. The goal is to help the homeowner with the cost of replacing their destroyed home.
Permanent or Semi-Permanent Housing Construction: Direct assistance or money for the construction of a home. This type of help occurs only in insular areas or other locations specified by FEMA, where no other type of housing assistance is possible.
Other Needs: Assistance is available for necessary expenses and serious needs caused by the disaster. This includes: child care; medical and dental expenses; essential household items; clothing; tools required for job; fuel; clean up items; moving and storage expenses.
You can apply in the following ways:
Toll-Free Hotline: 1-800-621-3362 (available from 7 AM to 11 PM EST, 7 days a week, multiple language options)
Mobile App: Can download FEMA application at https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app.
Did you lose your job, or was your work or self-employment interrupted because of the hurricane? If so, you may be eligible for extra income through Disaster Unemployment Assistance. Apply by November 14, 2018 at the link below or by calling 1-800-385-3920 (Mon – Fri, 8 am – 5 pm, Sat. 8 am - 3 pm).
Disaster Unemployment Assistance is available to those who:
Worked or were self-employed or were scheduled to begin work or self-employment;
Are not able to work or perform services because of physical damage of destruction to the place of employment as a direct result of the disaster;
Can establish that the work or self-employment they can no longer perform was their principal source of income;
Do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits from any state;
Cannot perform work or self-employment because of an injury as a direct result of the disaster; or
Became the breadwinner or major supporter of a household because the former breadwinner’s death occurred as a result of the major disaster.
Applicants must submit their Social Security number, check stubs and documentation to support the claim that they were working or self-employed when the disaster occurred. DUA is available from weeks of unemployment beginning October 14, 2018 until April 13, 2019, as long as the individual’s unemployment continues to be a result of the disaster. To file a DUA claim go to www.FloridaJobs.org or call 1-800-385-3920. Customer service representatives are available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturdays 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. EST. For DUA claims information, call 1-800-204-2418 and select the "speak to an agent" option to speak to a customer service representative.
If you are having trouble completing the application online or getting through on the phone, don't give up! In the past, individuals who have tried to apply for disaster unemployment have faced—a disaster. Once you are able to successfully apply, you’ll typically get a decision within 30 days. If you are improperly denied you’ll have 60 days to appeal. A lawyer may be able to help you appeal.
Already have SNAP benefits (Food Stamps)? Recipients in impacted counties should automatically receive 40% of their food assistance allotment for October 2018 benefits to replace food loss caused by Hurricane Michael. Current recipients are not eligible for the Disaster SNAP program.
If you lost more food than what the 40% replacement covers or live in one of the remaining counties, an individual request with additional verification is required. The window for an individual replacement claim has closed. Applicants must have turned in the form at the link below to a DCF service center, by faxing it to 1-866-886-4342, calling or using your MyACCESS account by October 30.
WHICH FLORIDA COUNTIES ARE ELIGIBLE FOR FEMA INDIvIdUal assIsTance BENEFITS?
The October 11, 2018 Disaster Declaration covers Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty, Taylor, Wakulla counties. Leon County was added on October 16, 2018.
The apartment I live in is needs repairs after the hurricane. What should I do? First, contact your landlord to notify her about the repairs that are needed. Take photos and videos of damage so you can document what happened. If repairs cannot be made quickly or the landlord refuses to make repairs, you should send the landlord a letter which lists what needs to be fixed and tells the landlord that you will not pay October’s rent if the landlord doesn’t make repairs within 7 days. This demand must be in writing. You can’t do it during a phone call. You can mail a letter, send an email or send a text. Make sure you keep a copy of whatever you send. If your rent is due on the 1st of the month, we recommend doing this no later than Friday, September 22, but you can still send the letter any time before the rent is due.
What if the landlord does not make repairs by October 1st? If you gave written notice to your landlord described in question one, do not pay your rent to the landlord. But, you must save your rent. If you sent the written notice, you will have a defense to an eviction for non-payment of rent. You will be required to deposit the rent with the court if the landlord files an eviction. If you don’t save your rent, you will likely be evicted and you won’t get a hearing or speak to a judge.
Can I make the repairs myself and deduct it from the rent? No. You can only do this if your landlord agrees to it, either in the lease or in a separate agreement. If your landlord tells you can use the rent to pay for repairs, make sure you get the agreement it in writing. An email or text from the landlord confirming the agreement will protect you later.
My place is unlivable after the hurricane. What can I do? If you have somewhere else to go, you can tell the landlord that the place is unlivable and you are moving out. Do this in writing and take photos. You won’t be responsible for any more rent under the lease. If only part of your home is unlivable, you have the right to move everything out of that part of your home and reduce your rent for that part of the home.
I have no power. Do I have to pay rent? Yes. In most cases, the loss of power after a hurricane requires FPL to fix lines and restore power. If you think the landlord caused the power outage or there are structural issues at the building preventing power from being restored, you should consult with a lawyer.
I couldn’t work during the storm and didn’t get paid. I don’t have the money for October’s rent. What should I do? First, you should talk to your landlord and see if she’d be willing to work with you and give you time to catch up on your rent. If not, you should contact the HAND program at 1-877-994-4357 to see if you qualify for rental assistance (in Miami-Dade County only). Unfortunately, the loss of income caused by a hurricane, is not a defense to an eviction for non-payment of rent. If you have received any eviction papers, you should contact Legal Services for advice.
All my stuff was destroyed when the roof fell in on the place I rent - what help can I get? If you don’t have renter’s insurance and you aren’t covered by your landlord’s insurance policy, you may be able to get Individual and Household Program (IHP) money from FEMA to replace necessary items of personal property such as clothing, household items, furnishings and appliances. You may apply for these benefits through FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 (hearing/speech impaired 1-800-462-7585). You can also apply on-line athttps://www.fema.gov/apply-assistance
My landlord told me to move out the next day because he wants the apartment for his daughter who lost her house in the hurricane, and told me if I wasn’t out, he’d change the locks - do I have to move? Florida law does not allow a landlord to lock you out or turn off the utilities or use any “self help” to get you to leave. The landlord must file an eviction action in court and, then you only have to move out after the judge orders you to be evicted by the Sheriff. Before filing an eviction, the landlord must first give you some type of written notice telling you to move. If you get any eviction papers, you can should contact Legal Services for advice. If the landlord locks you out or tries to force you out, call the police and contact Legal Services. You may have a claim for damages equal to three times the monthly rent.
WHERE CAN I GET HELP APPLYING OR APPEALING A DECISION?
If you need legal help, contact Legal Services of North Florida.
TALLAHASSEE: Serving Leon, Jefferson, Wakulla, and Franklin Counties - (850) 385-9007
QUINCY: Serving Gadsden, Liberty, Calhoun, and Jackson Counties - (850) 875-9881
PANAMA CITY: Serving Bay, Gulf, Holmes, and Washington Counties - (850) 769-3581
FORT WALTON BEACH: Serving Okaloosa and Walton Counties - (850) 862-3279
PENSACOLA: Serving Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties - (850) 432-8222
To find a legal aid office in another part of Florida, go to: floridalawhelp.org/find-legal-help
WHERE ARE THE FEMA DISASTER RECOVERY CENTERS?
As centers open, survivors may locate a center near them at fema.gov or by calling the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362. That information is also available on the FEMA mobile app. Survivors may register at any open DRC, even out of state.