Working through the financial impact of natural disasters
FARMINGTON HILLS, MI (September 8, 2021) — Since 1980, the U.S. has sustained 285 weather and climate disasters where overall damages costs totaled or exceeded $1 billion. Nearly one in three Americans experienced a weather disaster since June 2021.
As residents in the Southeast and on the East Coast are being ravaged by the impact and aftereffects of Hurricane Ida, those in the West continue to battle wildfires, intense heat and drought.
“Our hearts go out to all those across the country who have suffered personal loss as a result of the recent weather and climate events,” said GreenPath Financial Wellness CEO Kristen Holt. “So many families have acted urgently to ensure their safety and wellbeing, recover treasured possessions and must survive difficult living conditions. Proactively managing your finances when a natural disaster occurs can help reduce stress induced by the unexpected event and mitigate long-term damage to your finances.”
If households are facing an unexpected natural event or the continued challenges of ongoing national emergencies, coupled with the recent end of federal unemployment benefits, there are ways to manage the financial impact of natural disasters and mitigate the financial stress these events can cause.
First, use cash and emergency funds to take care of immediate, essential needs – medicine, food/water, heat/electricity and housing.
Contact disasterassistance.gov, local and state agencies as well as nonprofit organizations for assistance. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), American Red Cross, United Way, Salvation Army, Veteran Affairs and local food banks may provide needed services. Utilize Child Tax Credit funds, other forms of COVID relief, loyalty and credit card rewards to cover expenses. Watch out for scams and fraud.
If you haven’t already, contact your insurance companies to file a claim as you as you can. Whether it’s auto, home, fire or flood damage, your insurance company will help you take the necessary steps to make a claim. Use your smartphone to take photos and video of any damage and save the photos to a cloud-based account, so that you can make an inventory and prove damage. The sooner your file, the better – as insurers will face a significant number of claims.
Contact your landlord, credit card and mortgage companies, and other creditors to request hardship assistance. If the disaster, such as a catastrophic weather event, fire, or even an ongoing pandemic, affects your ability to make debt or housing payments on time, your creditors may offer forbearance, payment deferral, payment plans or waived fees. GreenPath counselors can join the call with your loan servicers and help you sort out the terms.
Check your credit report. Go to annualcreditreport.com for a free copy of your credit report. If you notice that late payments have affected your score, you can add a short statement to your report explaining your situation. You still may see some impact on your credit score, but the statement can help with future lenders.
Call your utility companies immediately, if you cannot live in your home due to damage. Utilities can put a stop hold on billing if you are not living in the home or not receiving utility services. By connecting with utility companies, you can ask about available relief programs and hardship assistance.
Contact a trusted nonprofit resource like GreenPath. Remember, you are not alone. Start with a free consultation from someone who has your interests at heart. Our NFCC-certified counselors can begin a conversation based on your individual household’s situation, understand what you need as you manage through the emergency, and create an action plan to work through them.
Holt added: “Recovering from a natural disaster can be a hugely emotional and expensive ordeal. Establishing a plan, harnessing offered resources, and making the most of available cash and credit will help significantly as you rebuild.”
Anyone concerned about their financial recovery from a natural disaster event should contact GreenPath at 866-648-8122 or visit www.greenpath.org.
About GreenPath Financial Wellness
As one of the largest financial counseling agencies in the nation, GreenPath Financial Wellness has assisted millions of people with debt and credit management, student loans, homeownership and foreclosure prevention. Headquartered in Michigan, GreenPath and its affiliates work directly with individuals, banks, credit unions and employer partners across the U.S. from more than 33 locations and through phone access and online tools. GreenPath is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, Michigan Diversity Council, Texas Diversity Council, and is accredited by the Council on Accreditation. To learn more, visit www.greenpath.org or call 866-648-8122. Follow the nonprofit on Facebook and Instagram @greenpathfinancial and on Twitter @GreenPath.