Its been 3 weeks since the Fires and I have been debating registering with FEMA.
Why FEMA? Well I have always wanted to live in a trailer (RV living baby), but maybe it is too soon to joke about that. Why FEMA? Because I believe they help those in need. Particularly those with financial constraints in their lives.
FEMA does all sorts of great things. For the community, they come in and clean up debris after disasters, help mitigate health issues by getting people out, and coordinate the many pieces of the puzzle. For individuals they provide housing assistance, grants to rebuild, and offer information on how to go forward. This is great and invaluable.
So I am a fan of FEMA…so why not register?
My first inclination to register was during the first week. I went through the process then reached the final page. That final page gave me pause. It basically said that if insurance or other coverage provides assistance and pays for any housing, rebuilding, etc. then all moneys obtained from FEMA must be returned.
This is not a surprise and if you ask me is the right thing to do.
Realizing I make too much money (thank goodness) and am well insured (double thank goodness) I knew I would not qualify for FEMA assistance. This is a good thing. I am happy to be ineligible
So I closed the browser.
Then this week came by
A few weeks passed and I thought, so I make too much money for FEMA. So what! I am still going to register.
Well there was more to it then that.
See, since the fire I have been getting discounts and some free stuff. It feels weird. I make a lot of money and can afford to buy what I need. So why take the discounted items you may ask….well….MY HOUSE BURNED DOWN AND ANY THING HELPS.
So if Banana Republic and Macy’s and Crate and Barrel want to help me out, I thank them. I appreciate it. Corporate America can likely afford to throw me a bone. Plus, I am more likely to spend more of my money over the extended future with them. It is a win win scenario. They get my business and I get a discount rebuilding my life.
I know it is weird, but hey this is a personal finance blog and I will take a deal when I can get it.
Ok so back to FEMA
So I figure if I am accepting disaster relief (from companies) then I should at least be officially registered. So I went back online to register.
I give FEMA props for making it easy to register. I think the entire process took me 5 minutes.
My work had handed out these fliers discussing how to do it.
Basically all you need is your social security number, address, and insurance information. Simple.
So I went online to DisasterAssistance.gov.
I clicked Apply Online and they asked for my address and determined what disaster I was dealing with.
Wildfires sure do get wild.
Then it was time to enter my info. There were a few screens asking for names of residents, social security numbers, new mailing addresses, type of damage, insurance coverage and income, and finally a bank account number to give you the financial assistance. (I did not give them my bank account info as I did not expect any assistance.)
Bam. I was done. FEMA registered and disaster relief official.
Well as expected, within 5 minutes I received a phone call and an email stating I was INELIGIBLE for FEMA assistance. Shocking…well not really.
As you can see above, I am ineligible for housing assistance but surprisingly eligible for lodging.
So what is lodging reimbursement?
FEMA will pay for 1 room per 4 occupants. So a family of 4 would have a hotel room paid for until a set date (in our case I think it was November 9th or 1 month post fires- don’t quote me on that though). They do stipulate that finding a room may be difficult (which is an understatement) and that all hotels may not accept the FEMA program.
Useful assistance that I luckily do not need. My family are chilling in our new minimalist lifestyle in a 700 square foot apartment (albeit not by choice). Still it is nice to know that FEMA has my back.
Registration done…what was the point?
Why go through all of this?
I think it is important to be counted for and receive a FEMA number. That number unlocks further discounts going forward whether it is buying furniture, clothes, etc. while putting my life back to some level of normalcy.
So that is why I registered for FEMA and recommend all high earners who have been through disasters to do so too. You may not get financial assistance, and you should be happy about that. Life has given you opportunities to be financially sound.
You will, however, be counted amongst your peers and have a reference number going forward.
Bonus round- registering with the U.S. Small Business Administration
Ok, I did not register for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), but recommend doing so for most people. You have to first register for FEMA, and then can register for the SBA.
Here is an info sheet:
Basically those both eligible and ineligible for FEMA can receive low rate loans from the SBA for both business and homes.
The rates are pretty good with a 1.75% rate for a home loan if credit is not available elsewhere.
The limits are low. I think I was quoted at $200,000 for a max home loan.
There are 3 main reasons I chose not to register because:
1) I can get a loan from a bank putting me at a 3.5% interest rate.
2) My current home loan has an interest rate of 2.875%.
3) If I buy a second home it will be at over the $200k limit for this loan.
Still I think it is something to consider for those who have gone through a disaster and need some further aide.
So I write this on Friday night, November 3rd. The blog posts keep coming and there is so much to write, but I am constrained by time.
Time with my family, at work, in my now doubled commute (from 10 minutes to 20 minutes each way mainly because traffic is worse), and time needed for myself (selfceare is clutch).
I will continue posting on a biweekly basis, but as you may have noticed my days have been turned upside down. I am hoping to get back to my Wednesday Hump Day posts because there are a lot of good posts going out each week that need to be shared with the community.
As far as FEMA goes, Thank you. I know you may not be perfect, but I appreciate the help you bring.
Also published on Medium.