Florida Legal Services’ Disaster Recovery Hotline is available to help survivors of Irma, Maria, Michael, or Dorian at 888-780-0443. Hablamos Español. Or, apply online here for legal assistance with your disaster recovery issues.
Are you a legal aid attorney or a pro bono volunteer attorney? The Florida Disaster Assistance Manual for Legal Services Advocates is a reference guide for advocates.
OTHER DISASTER RESOURCES:
AMERICAN RED CROSS
DFS STORM HOTLINE
HEART OF FLORIDA UNITED WAY (2-1-1)
Every day, hundreds of people across Central Florida turn to 2-1-1 for information and support—whether for financial assistance, health programs, crisis support and more. You can access 2-1-1 by phone, email, chat or text (just text your zip code to 898-211). Reaching out will get you connected to a multilingual 2-1-1 specialist in your area who can put you in touch with local organizations providing critical services to improve and save lives. https://www.hfuw.org/
The Florida Disaster Website provides resources for shelters by county, evacuation zones, traffic updates, road closures, and power outages. Florida Disaster Website and Florida Emergency Information Line - 1-800-342-3557
County Emergency Management - county emergency management contacts and websites
Alert Florida - sign up to receive emergency alerts and other public safety notifications in your community
legal advice and Resources
Florida's toll-free Disaster Legal Services Hotline Number has closed and will reopen if there is a new disaster declaration in the state. Florida Legal Services is still available to assist survivors of Irma, Maria, and Michael.
Florida Legal Services’ own toll-free Disaster Helpline is (888) 780-0443.
Visit the Florida Law Help Website for additional disaster relief information and resources. Their website can help people in need find the best legal aid program for their specific issue and location.
Visit the national Disaster Legal Aid Website.
FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY (FEMA)
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) offers assistance for sheltering (including paying for a hotel) and money for home repairs, housing, and other assistance (including medical, dental, funeral, essential household items, storage, and vehicle assistance). FEMA assistance does not have to be repaid.
The deadline to apply for FEMA assistance for Hurricane Michael has now expired. Exceptions may be made for extenuating circumstances. You may contact FEMA online at disasterassistance.gov, on the FEMA Mobile App, or by calling 1-800-621-3362. Persons who use 711 or Video Relay Service may also call 1-800-621-3362. People who are deaf or hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use TTY may call 1-800-462-7585. The toll-free numbers are open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, seven days a week. Multilingual operators are available. Press 2 for Spanish and press 3 for other languages.
Disaster assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
FEMA Frequently Asked Questions (English)
FEMA Frequently Asked Questions (Spanish)
FEMA Frequently Asked Questions (Haitian Creole)
YOUR RIGHT TO APPEAL A FEMA DECISION
If you have received a letter from FEMA saying that you are ineligible for disaster relief or that your application is incomplete, you have the right to appeal the decision within 60 days of receiving mailed notification. An appeal is a written request to review your file again with additional information you provide that may affect the decision. Your ability to appeal is time-sensitive. You must fax or postmark your appeal within 60 days of the date of FEMA's decision letter. The Individuals and Households Program Unified Guidance (IHPUG) provides the public with a single, comprehensive reference containing policy statements and conditions of eligibility for all forms of Individuals and Households Program (IHP) assistance. Click here for complete guidance. For additional questions or assistance with your appeal contact FLS’s Disaster Assistance Hotline at 1-888-780-0443.
TRANSITIONAL SHELTERING ASSISTANCE (TSA)
FEMA may provide Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) to state, tribal, or territorial governments when disaster survivors are unable to return to their pre-disaster primary residence because their home is either uninhabitable or inaccessible due to a Presidentially-declared disaster. TSA is intended to reduce the number of disaster survivors in congregate shelters by transitioning survivors into short-term accommodations which FEMA funds through direct payments to lodging providers. TSA is most appropriately implemented at the conclusion of congregate sheltering activities, generally two weeks post-declaration. TSA does not count toward a registrant’s maximum amount of financial assistance available under the Individuals and Households Program (IHP).
Conditions of Eligibility for TSA
To be considered for TSA, registrants must meet all of the following criteria:
Register with FEMA for assistance and pass identity and occupancy verification;
The primary residence is located in an area designated for TSA;
Indicate a need for emergency sheltering;
Indicate home damage during registration;
Report damage that occurred within the incident period;
Report a cause of damage that corresponds with the incident type (e.g., wind and rain for a hurricane);
Not be linked with another valid registration for FEMA assistance; and
Indicate a current location of a mass shelter, hotel, car, or place of employment as part of their FEMA application. Eligibility criteria will be validated through registration information, shelter survey, or auto-dialer outreach to survivors for responses to a series of questions.
Interim extensions of TSA will no longer be processed. Instead, a Period of Assistance (POA) of up to 180 days will be established upon activation of TSA. The POA will be established by FEMA based on the circumstances of the event and the needs of the impacted state, tribe, or territory. Extensions beyond the approved POA will only be granted under exigent circumstances and must be approved.
Eligible registrants may choose to stay at any TSA participating lodging facility where a vacant room is available. FEMA provides access to a list of approved lodging facilities on http://www.disasterassistance.gov/ and through the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362). If approved, eligible registrants will be notified of their initial eligibility and receive seven days’ notice prior to their TSA end date. Continued eligibility for TSA will be tied to a registrant’s eligibility for Housing Assistance under the IHP and will be based on individual circumstances and demonstrated continued need.
OPERATION BLUE ROOF
Even though the USACE is no longer accepting requests, it is still making repairs for survivors who applied for Blue Roof assistance before the Nov. 16 deadline. To check on the status of a Blue Roof request, call 888-ROOF-BLU (888-766-3258).
***USACE is warning homeowners of fraudsters who may be representing themselves as Operation Blue Roof representatives.
Signs of fraud may include:
No USACE quality assurance assessment.
No USACE contractor with a valid work order.
Asking for payment. (The program is free of charge.)
Soliciting by paper applications.
TEMPORARY ASSISTANCE FOR NEEDY FAMILIES (TANF)
TANF pays money to low-income families with dependent children and pregnant women in their third trimester to help pay for rent, utilities, and other household expenses. TANF is not a disaster program but may help families who have been impacted by Irma. TANF benefits do not have to be repaid.
Medicaid pays for medically necessary services for low-income individuals and families. Medicaid is not a disaster program but may help families who have been impacted by a storm or disaster. Medicaid benefits do not have to be repaid.
Apply for Medicaid online. Or you can apply for Medicaid on a paper application that you can mail, fax, or return to your local Customer Service Center. Download the paper application here.
The Florida Department of Financial Services Disaster Fraud Action Strike Team (DFAST) has been activated in response Hurricane Michael and will be deployed in the affected areas to protect Floridians from storm-related fraud.
According to DFS, indicators of storm-related fraud include:
1. A contractor or restoration professional who offered to waive or discount an insurance deductible.
2. A contractor or restoration professional that has received payment and has failed to provide any repairs to the home.
3. A contractor or restoration professional who offered to provide repairs at a cash-only discounted rate and has failed to provide repairs to the home.
4. A contractor or restoration professional who pressure the policyholder to sign an AOB and has failed to provide any repairs to the home or stopped responding to contact attempts.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF FINANCIAL SERVICES CONSUMER HELPLINE
legal assistance is critical...
Legal aid provides critical resources for all people surviving natural disasters. We help people find safe, secure housing, stand up against discrimination, navigate insurance claims, provide fraud protections, and assist with reproduction of wills or other lost life planning documents.
For low-income families, who often have little power or influence, any loss of property or income has a disproportionately heavy impact. Legal aid helps connect people with disaster recovery networks and obtain FEMA benefits and other insurance benefits. We also assist with Landlord/Tenant disputes and foreclosure problems.
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP) & DISASTER SNAP
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) runs the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which used to be known as “Food Stamps,” as well as Disaster SNAP (D-SNAP). D-SNAP gives food assistance to low-income households with food loss or damage caused by disasters, even if they would not normally qualify for SNAP, as well as by replacing and supplementing the SNAP benefits of persons who were receiving benefits when the disaster occurred. If you want to apply for food assistance from the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP), check DCF’s website about how and when to pre-register to apply for D-SNAP in your county and what dates you can be interviewed for your D-SNAP application. Interviews can be in-person or by phone. You must pre-register to be interviewed by phone or in person. When you pre-register, write down the registration number that DCF assigns to your case so that you can give it to DCF during your D-SNAP application interview. You are required to have an application interview with DCF to get D-SNAP, but you can decide whether to have that interview by phone or in-person.
How to qualify for D-SNAP:
Households living in the disaster area must meet certain criteria to be eligible to receive D-SNAP benefits such as a loss or reduced income due to the disaster, inaccessible resources, or incurring disaster expenses. The household must have experienced at least one of the following adverse effects to be eligible:
Damage to or destruction of the household's home or self-employment business.
Disaster-related expenses not expected to be reimbursed during the disaster period (such as food loss, home or business repairs, temporary shelter expenses, evacuation expenses, home/business protection, disaster-related personal injury including funeral expenses).
Lost or inaccessible income, including reduction or termination of income, or a delay in receipt of income during the benefit period.
There are no citizenship requirements or requirements that D-SNAP applicants have a social security number to qualify for D-SNAP.
The most up-to-date and accurate information on SNAP benefits and changes are posted on DCF's ACCESS Florida webpage. Check the ACCESS Florida webpage for current information. To see if DCF is implementing D-SNAP in your area, check DCF’s Food for Florida website.
For low-income persons in need of food assistance who did not apply for D-SNAP and are not getting SNAP, apply for regular SNAP online here. You can also apply for regular SNAP on a paper application that can be mailed, faxed or returned to your local Customer Service Center. Click here to download a paper form.
Applicants who have been denied SNAP or disagree with the amount of benefits they received have the right to request a fair hearing from DCF to contest the decision. To request a hearing, follow the instructions and timelines in the written eligibility notice provided by DCF. If you did not get a written notice, follow the directions on DCF’s web site at http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/admin/ig/fair-hearing-request-form.shtml. Free legal help from local legal aid programs may be available. To find your local program, go to www.floridalawhelp.org.
U.S. DEPT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
HUD provides a variety of disaster resources listed below:
Mortgage Assistance from HUD's Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
For a Presidentially declared disaster, FHA activates a mortgagee letter making a variety of insured loan programs available for disaster victims and putting into play use of special loan servicing and underwriting requirements. Find out more.
Office of Housing Counseling
To help you prepare and respond to disasters in your community, HUD’s Office of Housing Counseling has developed a Disaster Recovery and Emergency Preparedness Toolkit.
Assistance from Ginnie Mae
Ginnie Mae encourages all single-family, manufactured housing, and multifamily Ginnie Mae issuers offering forbearance to provide forbearance to mortgagors in areas receiving a Presidential disaster declaration. In certain instances, Ginnie Mae will assist issuers in their efforts to offer forbearance to mortgagors with pass-through payments. Visit Ginnie Mae's website.
The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) provides guidance on how to easily comply with the Fair Housing Act, how to avoid housing discrimination and how to seek help.
FLORIDA HOUSING SEARCH
Florida residents who have been displaced by Hurricane Michael may search for available housing using FloridaHousingSearch.org as well as GeorgiaHousingSearch.org and Alabama 2-1-1.
FloridaHousingSearch.org will temporarily list housing in select counties in Alabama and Georgia. Search or list in Geneva County and Houston County, Alabama, and Decatur County and Seminole County, Georgia.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to massive housing need, properties may be listed one day and gone the next.
Please call the landlord before going to see a property. Some properties may still have damage and be in repair queues.
FLOW (Florida Licensing on Wheels)
Florida’s Department of Highway Safety has mobile driver license and motor vehicle services (called FLOW) which are deployed to disaster affected areas for hurricane survivors to renew, obtain or replace driver's licenses, ID cards, and disabled parking permits as well as to change names or addresses on licenses and ID cards. Go to https://www.flhsmv.gov/locations/florida-licensing-wheels-flow/ for more information.
EMERGENCY PRESCRIPTION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (EPAP)
The Emergency Prescription Assistance Program, or EPAP, is not currently active in Florida. When active, EPAP helps people in a federally-identified disaster area who do not have health insurance get the prescription drugs, vaccinations, medical supplies, and equipment that they need. This program helps people and communities better cope with a disaster and reduces stress on the healthcare system.
People who are eligible for EPAP can file a claim at more than 72,000 retail pharmacies across the United States and its territories for prescription items that were lost, stolen, or destroyed because of a disaster. For the most recent information go to www.phe.gov/epap or call855-793-7470.
DISASTER RECOVERY CENTERS (DRC)
There are no DRC’s currently open in Florida. DRC’s open when a disaster is declared. FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) are accessible facilities and mobile offices you can visit to learn more about FEMA and other disaster assistance programs. You may also visit to ask questions about your case. DRCs are set up in convenient areas after a disaster to make them easier to find. The DRC Locator helps you find the hours, services, and locations of DRCs near you. https://egateway.fema.gov/ESF6/DRCLocator
A DRC may be able to help you:
Apply for assistance.
Learn more about disaster assistance programs.
Learn the status of your FEMA application.
Understand any letters you get from FEMA.
Find housing and rental assistance information.
Get answers to questions or resolve problems.
Get referrals to agencies that may offer other assistance.
Learn about Small Business Administration (SBA) programs.
At this time, classes have resumed for all students in impacted areas.
For students displaced by a disaster or whose schools were damaged beyond immediate repair, Florida Virtual School may be an option. Go to www.flvs.net to begin the registration process. This does not replace Florida’s obligations under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
MAKE A PLAN FOR FUTURE DISASTERS
Make a plan today. Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to know which types of disasters could affect your area. Know how you’ll contact one another and reconnect if separated. Establish a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find.
Step 1: Put together a plan by discussing these 4 questions with your family, friends, or household to start your emergency plan.
How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
What is my shelter plan?
What is my evacuation route?
What is my family/household communication plan?
Step 2: Consider specific needs in your household.
As you prepare your plan tailor your plans and supplies to your specific daily living needs and responsibilities. Discuss your needs and responsibilities and how people in the network can assist each other with communication, care of children, business, pets, or specific needs like the operation of durable medical equipment. Create your own personal network for specific areas where you need assistance. Keep in mind some of these factors when developing your plan:
Different ages of members within your household
Responsibilities for assisting others
Medical needs including prescriptions and equipment
Disabilities or access and functional needs including devices and equipment
Cultural and religious considerations
Pets or service animals
Households with school-aged children
Step 3: Fill out a Family Emergency Plan
Download and fill out a family emergency plan or use them as a guide to create your own.
Step 4: Practice your plan with your family/household
For more information on how to prepare for future disasters visit https://www.ready.gov/
The Rebuild Florida program is still open! Rebuild Florida is a long-term recovery effort to help Florida families whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Irma repair or rebuild their homes. Learn more at RebuildFlorida.gov.
This program will provide disaster recovery assistance to eligible Florida homeowners impacted by Hurricane Irma, providing much-needed resources that will help rebuild homes in our hardest-hit communities. Learn more at RebuildFlorida.gov.
Register today at RebuildFlorida.gov or by calling Rebuild Florida at 844-833-1010.Rebuild Florida centers are also open in the hardest-hit communities. More information, including program FAQs, is now available at RebuildFlorida.gov.
Thank you to our partner MVP Translations for your dedication to making our critical disaster information available to non-English speaking Floridians!