Together, we are stronger.
As a HUD certified housing counseling agency we are being called upon to serve our community in meeting their housing needs during this period of recovery. Avenue’s HomeOwnership Center is expanding its counseling services to provide disaster recovery counseling which will involve helping Houstonians navigate the process of applying for FEMA, filing insurance claims, understanding the do’s and don’ts of home repair, avoiding scams, managing finances in the midst of the transition and we will also continue our foreclosure prevention counseling.
Below is an initial list of resources and information for Houstonians to begin their recovery process.
Need more information or guidance? Call, email or go online to schedule an appointment to talk with a counselor in our office or virtually (phone and/or computer/smart phone/tablet).
Email: Register for our Housing Recovery Workshop
To book an appointment: Create an account, confirm it and select the “Housing Recovery Counseling” option
FIRST 24 HOURS AFTER THE FLOOD
- Whether a flood is caused by ground water, falling water, or home water system malfunction, there are some best practices you’ll need to employ within the first 24 hours after the flood to ensure the safety of your home and family and give you the best outcome possible with your insurance company. (read more on houselogic’s website)
1. Avoid Additional Risks
2. Take Pictures
3. Protect Your Health
4. Call Your Insurance Company
5. Find out if you’re in a disaster area (see “Federally Declare Disaster Counties” below)
6. Remove water
7. Mitigate mold
8. Secure the property
FILING PRIVATE INSURANCE CLAIMS
- Prepare to file your insurance claim:
- Document with pictures and a written list of all damage and property loss
- Find your insurance agent’s contact information and policy number
(if you do not have a copy of your insurance and/or flood policy, contact your provider and ask for a copy.)
- Call your insurance agent or the company.
*****Do not delay in filing, get in line *****
- Managing your insurance claim:
- Document your insurance claim number
- Begin preparing your Proof of Loss statement to submit within 60 days
Download the form
- Allow and be present for the insurance adjuster’s visit to inspect home.
- When the inspector is there make sure to state that any damage discussed, pointed out or noticed is only what is immediately available to the untrained eye.
- Obtain repair/replacement estimates if you do not agree with the inspector’s assessment.
FILING FEMA CLAIMS
Texas has been approved for FEMA funding. You can apply for FEMA assistance via the following ways:
- Phone @ 1-800-621-3362 or
- Online @ www.DisasterAssistance.gov
- Deadline to apply is October 24, 2017
- Best way to apply at this point is to visit a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center near you. Here is a list of locations:
- If you have been denied, you get a chance to do one appeal. We strongly encourage you to visit a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center to prepare and submit your appeal.
****Important to note about FEMA:****
- FEMA could pay for emergency housing costs so even if you cannot get to you home now and are not able to file a full claim for losses, you could apply for help to pay for temporary emergency housing.
- FEMA will generally not issue assistance UNTIL they can confirm what your private insurance is paying for and not paying for – including emergency housing. So if you have private insurance, you should start the ball rolling with them first and have your policy information ready to provide to FEMA.
- FEMA is most likely not going to award you enough to rebuild your home back to its condition pre-Havey. Rather, their assistance is most likely just enough to meet the bare minimum to make the house habitable again. By occupancy standards, this may mean living in your home after its been mucked and gutted and before the walls are closed back up. It may mean keeping a tarp on your roof. Having a clear expectation of what you might receive will be helpful as you plan your longer-term recovery.
COUNTIES COVERED IN THE DISASTER DECLARATION
These are the counties that are eligible for federal aid, including FEMA. The current list (as of August 29th) includes the following 18 counties: Aransas, Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Harris, Jackson, Kleberg, Liberty, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria, and Wharton.
If you are in one of the 18 federally-declared disaster counties, you may be eligible for disaster-related unemployment assistance. Apply by October 31, 2017
CONNECT WITH AN ASSISTANCE MINISTRY
Assistance Ministries are a network of social service entities affiliated with church who have funding to help families meet their basic needs for housing, food, health and transportation. Call 2-1-1 and ask for the contact information for your assistance ministry for your zip code – where your home got flooded or where you are living now (ask for both). Call to schedule an appointment at one and enroll in their program to receive assistance.
CONNECT WITH GULF COAST COMMUNITY SERVICES
Assistance is meant to offer meaningful support to individuals while they develop practical plans for meeting their own needs. The program requires individuals to complete a service agreement/plan of action that addresses personal and professional development needs. Click here to view their website
FINANCIAL CHALLENGES FACING FLOOD VICTIMS
Flooding interrupts the lives of individuals and families on multiple levels, including interrupting their ability to manage their regular finances. Below are some resources to help manage these:
Freddie Mac If you are a homeowner whose home or place of employment has been impacted by Hurricane Harvey and your mortgage is owned by Freddie Mac, contact your mortgage company right away to discuss your mortgage relief options. (Read more about options for Freddie Mac back loans.)
Mortgage companies who are servicing Freddie Mac loans have been authorized to do:
- Suspend mortgage payments for up to 12 months
- Waive penalty fees and late fees for affected homeowners
- Suspend reporting forbearance and delinquency reporting to credit bureaus
- Automatically suspend evictions and foreclosures for 90 days
- Authorized to verbally approve 90-forbearances for homeowners whose home or work was impacted
Fannie Mae Fannie Mae works directly with mortgage servicers to offer special options for those impacted by disasters. Eligible homeowners who are having difficulty paying their Fannie Mae mortgage may qualify for (Read more about options for Fannie Mae backed loans):
- A forbearance to temporarily suspend or reduce mortgage payments up to 6 months
- Late charges to be waived
- A modification solution to cure any delinquency after a forbearance
- Possible suspension of legal proceedings (i.e., foreclosure)
If your home is impacted by a natural disaster, it is imperative that you contact your servicer as soon as possible.
Wells Fargo communication on delaying foreclosures, opportunities for deferrals, modifications and repayment plans (Read more about options for Wells Fargo loans)
Wells Fargo Disaster Hotline at (888) 818-9147
The IRS is providing help to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Special tax relief and assistance is available to taxpayers in the Presidential Disaster Areas.(Read more about IRS Relief options from the IRS)
- Retirement Plans Can Make Loans, Hardship Distributions to Victims of Hurricane Harvey
- Extension Filers Have Until Jan. 31 to File
IRS has also provided guidance for EMPLOYERS to help their employees who have been affected (read more about IRS guidance for employer assistance to employees)
View the “Disaster Relief – Part II” mini-training.
- Decide what help is best needed
- Decide if you want to provide assistance only during disaster or also for personal emergency
- How will you get funds for this assistance? Contribute or raise from the public?
- Decide on a vehicle for delivering assistance
- Employer Sponsored Public Charity
- Employer sponsored Private Foundation
- Create a donor advised fund
- Make direct contributions
Paying Bills & Protecting Credit
Its important to be proactive with creditors when you’re recovering from a natural disaster. If you’re having trouble paying your bills, reach out to the creditor and explain that you are a flood victim and ask for extra payment time, fee waivers or deferments. Many creditors and banks are also offering to not report late payments to bureaus – but you have to notify the creditor that you are impacted by the hurricane.
DISASTER RECOVERY LOANS
Those whose homes or businesses have been damaged by the storm may be eligible for Disaster Loan Assistance through the Small Business Administration. We encourage you to apply as soon as possible to expedite processing time. A community partner, BCL of Texas, is available to answer questions regarding this process.
- Homeowners may be eligible for up to $200,000 to repair or replace their residence. Both homeowners and renters may be able to borrow up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property. Click here for mail-in application forms.
- Business owners can apply for a loan to repair their business building and assets, as well as to compensate for economic injury due to loss of operation. Click here for mail-in application forms.
- Online applications are available here.
You may also work with a Small Business Development Center advisor to create a Disaster Recovery Action Plan. SBDC recommends completing SBA and FEMA applications as primary steps before contacting SBDC. Click here to complete your application.
Free legal help via the State Bar of Texas Disaster Legal Hotline. Call 1-800-504-7030 or visit their website for more information.
How You Can Help: Monetary Donations
Donate to the City of Houston Relief Fund
After receiving an overwhelming number of inquiries from citizens and companies who want to help, Mayor Sylvester Turner has established the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund that will accept tax deductible flood relief donations for victims that have been affected by the recent floods.
Donate to Avenue’s Repair and Counseling Efforts
If you want to help those affected by Tropical Storm Harvey, please consider making a donation to Avenue. Residents in our area, including our housing communities, will need significant assistance in order to rebuild. Their needs are vast – some dealing with losing their homes, while others have experienced substantial loss of property. Avenue is committed to doing everything we can to support our community on the road to recovery. Together, we are stronger.