Information provided by FEMA:
Q: My house flooded. I need a place to live. What do I do first?
A: The first step is to register with FEMA. Go online to DisasterAssistance.gov or call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362, (TTY) 800-462-7585. Once you have registered, FEMA will arrange for an inspector to look at your house. Then a specialist will determine if you are eligible for housing assistance. There are different housing options, and the helpline specialist will help you find the program that best suits your needs.
If you have a smart phone, you can download the FEMA mobile app for disaster resources, registration application, weather alerts, and safety tips. The app provides a customizable checklist of emergency supplies, maps of open shelters and weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations across the Nation. The latest feature of the app allows you to send notifications to your device to remind you to take important steps to prepare your home and family for disasters. Go to Ready.gov for more details.
Q: How long will it take? We've been staying with family and we really need to find a different place to stay.
A: The sooner you sign up for assistance, the sooner we can figure out how to help. Make an appointment for an inspector to come to your home. If the inspection cannot be done quickly, ask if you are eligible for rental assistance while you wait. Then if the inspector determines that you can't live in your house, you may be eligible for continued rental assistance. Your grant money could be used toward the monthly rental of an apartment.
Q: We need to stay close to the house while we clean it up and make repairs.
A: Depending on how badly the house is damaged, it is possible you might want to stay in a nearby hotel for a short time. If it is going to take longer, you may need to lease a house or an apartment.
Q: We might have to get out today. I guess we'll have to go into a shelter. Then what?
A: FEMA is working with the state to get people out of shelters. Under our Transitional Sheltering Assistance program we may be able to put your family into a hotel. But again, you will need to register with FEMA first. In the TSA program, you won't have to pay the bill yourself – FEMA pays the hotel directly. And the costs are not deducted from whatever grant money you might receive.
Q: We live pretty far out in the countryside. There aren't any hotels near us. What should we do?
A: If your house is not too badly damaged, you can sign up for a new Louisiana state program that pays for repairs so you can shelter at home. If $15,000 or less of work in your home can make your home safe, secure and habitable while you continue to live in it and rebuild, then you may be eligible for this program. This assistance is different from and won't affect any possible Individual Assistance grant from FEMA. Apply to 1-800-927-0216 or shelterathome.la.gov.
If that program isn't an option for you, in some cases a manufactured housing unit can be placed on your property and you can rebuild while you live in it. However, this is a last resort after all other alternatives have been considered and ruled out.
Q: Are you talking about a trailer?
A: These new manufactured homes are much improved and really safe and clean. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. We really try to help people find housing that already exists.
Q: Those all seem like great possibilities. Is there anything else I should know?
A: There is one other program, and in fact you might be able to help us with it! We are currently looking for larger properties that aren't being rented out right now because they need repairs. FEMA will negotiate with the owner to repair the building in return for agreeing to rent to survivors. But it has to be five units or more. If we can find a property out by you and have it fixed up it might end up helping you and a number of other families.