Based on the stats from FEMA, more than 30,000 people have been displaced from their homes and over 450,000 will seek and qualify for some form of federal flood victim assistance. This is staggering and only goes to prove that the days following the storm will be very critical for many. We wanted to provide some helpful information to assist in your transition or the transition post-storm of your family and friends. The process to get back to some level of normalcy will be long, and many times frustrating, but we have already shown the magnitude of our resilience. #HoustonStrong
Request An Extension To Pay Your Bills
During this time of rebuilding and transitioning back to “regular” life many companies will give you an extended payment plan and even credit for a few months to offer some relief and to give you one less thing to worry about. We recommend you call them and let them know you are in Houston or a surrounding area (these are disaster areas as of now and you can get disaster relief) and were affected by Hurricane Harvey. Companies to call would be your mortgage company, car loan company, electric company, cable company, and your phone and cellular companies.
FEMA Can Assist As You Rebuild
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is here to assist those impacted by the storm to cover things like temporary housing and rental costs, home repairs, child care, medical expenses, transportation, and other uninsured expenses. Financial assistance usually begin a few days after a disaster and FEMA has already started to approve applications.
FEMA’s Hurricane Harvey webpage is dedicated to answer any question you have regarding the storm. In addition to providing details on local resources and how to apply for assistance, they also have a section which provides clarity on any potential rumors. Getting the facts is really important during a time when rumors spread like wildfire. If you haven’t already, you will need to register for FEMA assistance. Registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov is the quickest way but you can also call (800) 621-3362. To file your flood claim you will need to follow the steps here. This infograhic explains the process as well. You can also watch the video below:
Disaster Unemployment Assistance
If your employment was affected by Hurricane Harvey you can apply with the Texas Workforce Commission for disaster unemployment assistance (DUA). This is for worker’s who have lost their jobs and self-employed individuals who have been unable to work due to damage sustained from the storm. To see if you qualify, call the TWC Tele-Center Monday through Friday between 8am-5pm at (800) 939-6631 or visit www.twc.state.tx.us.
Temporary Office Space For The Week
Level One, which has two locations in Houston and offers private offices and other meetings spaces for individuals and small businesses, is offering a free week of co-working for all people displaced by the storm. Their location in the Theater District is available for anyone to use as an immediate space to conduct your business. You can contact them at (877) 301-6217 or express interest on their Facebook post.
Station is offering free co-working space through the end of the week for displaced entrepreneurs and are there to get you back up and running. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Work Lodge is doing same. They also are offering a free work space until the end of this week. You can email them to register: email@example.com.
Temporary Housing Is Available
Due to the storm, many Houstonians and those from other parts of Texas may not be able to return to their pre-disaster primary residence due to the state of their home (uninhabitable or inaccessible). To help with temporary living arrangements, you can request Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) through FEMA, which provides short-term accommodations in hotels for eligible survivors. Those displaced from their homes that are interested in this program should register with FEMA by calling (800) 621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585 or online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. A list of available Texas hotels is available here, but please note that you must first register with FEMA to establish eligibility.
In addition, local hotels are offering evacuation rates. Hotel Derek in uptown Houston is offering $99 evacuation rates through Thursday, August 31st. They are also waiving pet fees for up to two animals. Please use code STORMY on their website to gain access to this rate. The Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton Inn Cypress Station is offering an $89 that includes free breakfast. You will also find a special rate at their sister property, Hampton Inn & Suites Houston Cypress Station, located next door. Airbnb has set up an urgent accommodations site, where people can open their homes to those displaced from the storm. They are waiving their service fee through September 1st. Many homeowners have been adding their properties to site to assist in providing alternative options for those seeking accommodations.
How To Get Around Town
Getting around the city has gotten a lot better since Hurricane Harvey has moved out and the sun has graced us with her presence again, but we still have lots of closures and high water locations. One of the best resources we’ve found is Houston TranStar to help get around the city. One of the main reasons we recommend them is they are current and updated a few times a day. If you are looking for areas that have road closures click here and if you are looking for areas that still have high water click here. If you want to see a city map click here. Another great resource that will help you map out and plan your drive (you can view an actual map) is DriveTexas.org. This is from Texas Department of Public Safety and is updated regularly!
Both Houston airports have reopened with limited flights, but you can also choose to travel via Vonlane. Vonlane will resume normal operations out of downtown Houston on Friday, September 1st with routes open to and from Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio. On Thursday August 31st, they are booking limited service between Houston and Dallas and Austin for travel via a temporary location at 11851 Cutten Road, Houston, TX 77066. Due to heavy call volumes, they do suggest booking online.
METRO has also resumed its bus and rail services with a limited schedule today (17 major routes are operational). Visit their website to see find out which buses are running and where. METROLift requests will be handled on a case-by-case basis and should be scheduled one day in advance online or by calling (713) 225-6716. Park & Ride will resume next Tuesday, September 5th and HOV/HOT lanes are suspended until further notice.
When Rebuilding Your Home
Be aware of people that take advantage of others during already difficult times. As you return to your homes to assess the damage and file your insurance claims, visit the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation website to check and verify licenses before you hire if you plan to contract with other companies. Another group to check out is the Roofing Contractors Association of Texas (RCAT) to ensure you are working with trusted roofing and waterproofing contractors.
In regards to your insurance claims, make sure you thoroughly document all damages in writing and take a picture of everything (damaged or undamaged); and video is a plus. Also, keep a record of anything you spend on repairs and replacements.
Other Helpful Resources
Many folks did not have time to grab important documents or in all the madness forgot. So below are some phone numbers, since internet access may be limited or non-existent, to get the ball rolling on getting them replaced. Or you can visit www.cornyn.senate.gov/content/page/hurricane-harvey-resources for the numbers and website information in addition to lots more useful resources.
- Green Cards: 800-375-5283
- Birth and Death Certificates: 888-963-7111
- Texas Driver’s License: 512-424-2600
- Bank Checks, ATM/Debit Cards, or Safe Deposit Boxes: 877-275-3342
- Credit Cards: Contact your issuing institution: American Express (800-992-3404), Discover (800-347-2683), MasterCard (800-622-7747), or Visa (800-847-2911)
- Credit Reports: Contact Equifax, Experian, or Transunion at 877-322-8228 or visit annualcreditreport.com
- Social Security Card: 800-772-1213
- Fraud Alerts or a Credit Freeze: 877-438-4338
- Medicare Cards: 800-772-1213
- Passport: 202-955-0430 or 877-487-2778
- U.S. Savings Bonds: 800-722-2678 or 800-553-2663
- Tax Returns: 800-829-1040
- Military Records: 866-272-6272
- Vehicle Titles: 888-368-3689
If you know of any valuable information or resources that you feel will be useful as we all get “back to normal” please list them in the comments below!