With the recent devastation from Hurricane Florence, more than 1.1 million American home and businesses have been left without power.
The devastation from the wind, flood and rain continues to unfold and is a reminder to all of us that we are all only one natural disaster away from being in physical but also financial trouble.
When hurricanes, floods, wildfires or other natural disasters hit, the most common financial struggles occur with mortgages, debt collections, credit cards and other loans.
Here are 5 steps to take after a natural disaster. Keep this on hand, you never know when you might need it.
1. Contact your creditors
Explain that your bills will be delayed and most reputable banks and lenders will set you up with a hardship or natural disaster plan that will allow you to skip a few months of payments without hurting your credit.
2. Contact your insurance company immediately
Once the storm passes and you are able to easily examine all of the damage, file a claim with your insurance company immediately. They are likely going to be bombarded with claims, so the longer you wait, the further down on the list you will be. Don’t throw out any damaged property until the claim is filed. Take photos and detailed notes and have all documents ready. Stay on top of your claim and make sure an adjuster acts promptly!
3. Contact the government
The government offers several websites for those affected by natural disasters.
DisasterAssistance.gov will help cover medical expenses, child care, transportation or funeral costs if necessary. Just type in your address to see if you’re eligible.
File a flood claim with the National Flood Insurance Program here.
If you’re a college student with loans that was impacted by a natural disaster, check out the U.S. Department of Education Federal Student Aid website for more information on your situation.
4. Understand what you still owe on your car
If your car is damaged, your insurance company will assess the value of it. However, damage doesn’t eliminate you from making your car loan payments. Make sure you understand the type of insurance policy you have, what insurance will cover and what you still owe on the car. If you owe more on the loan than the amount paid by insurance, you still owe that. Natural disaster or not.
5. Beware of scams
As frustrating as it is, fraud is common after disasters. Scammers will usually offer to get you a loan modification or home repair for a one-time upfront payment. They might even pretend to be someone from your insurance agency, bank or a government employee. Always work directly with your lender to be safe!
Feature Image: Twenty20