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Financial Education

How to Rebuild After a Natural Disaster

Steps to take to help you financially recover.

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Recovering from a natural disaster is never easy, but help is within reach. Here’s how to take steps toward rebuilding your life after a natural disaster:

My house has been destroyed by a natural disaster; what do I do?

If your home has been destroyed or is currently not safe to live in, you are likely eligible for coverage under your homeowner’s insurance policy. Most policies will also cover temporary dwellings, such as hotel stays or temporary rentals, so don’t hesitate to find a place to live until your home is livable again.

Contact your insurer immediately to file a claim. You’ll need to give an estimate for the amount of damage and losses sustained to your possessions, so it’s best to take inventory of your possessions as soon as possible. Walk through the remains of your home and use video to record what you see.

A claims adjuster will then visit your home to assess the damage and collect any documentation you have. At this point, you’ll likely have an idea of whether it’s worthwhile to repair parts of your home or if you will need to rebuild completely. Work on repairs and/or rebuilding your home can begin as you wait for the insurance payout. Be sure to use licensed contractors and keep documented proof of all purchases and hotel stays for your insurance provider.

How do I apply for federal relief?

If you have been directly impacted by one of the recent disasters, you are likely eligible for financial relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Financial assistance from FEMA can help cover the costs of rent, home repair, home replacement, child care and other disaster-related needs that are not covered by your insurance provider.

You can contact FEMA online at, or download the FEMA app and register for relief on your mobile device. If you are currently without internet access, you can also call 800-621-3362 to apply.  Be sure to have all your personal information on hand, including your insurance policy information, the address of the damaged dwelling, a description of the damage and losses caused by the disaster and your total household annual income.

How do I rebuild my business after a natural disaster?

If your business has sustained damage from a disaster, file an insurance claim as quickly as possible. Snap some pictures of the damage before cleaning up to use as evidence for your insurance provider. The sooner you file a claim, the sooner you’ll receive a payout.

You can also apply for FEMA relief funds for uninsured or underinsured damage sustained by your business. Follow the application process detailed above.

Finally, it’s a good idea to reach out to the Small Business Association (SBA) as well; contact the SBA Disaster Assistance team at 800-659-2955.

After applying for relief, follow these steps toward recovery:

  • Communicate with employees, clients and suppliers. It’s important to let people know you are temporarily out of business and working on a reopening process. Share your status information on your online platforms and update as necessary.
  • Reach out to your lenders. Many lenders offer special allowances for business owners who’ve sustained losses due to natural disaster.
  • Tap into emergency reserves. Now’s the time to use the money you’ve put away for slower months or to help you get by in an emergency. You can replenish these funds after insurance payouts come through.
  • Get creative about business operations. COVID-19 has taught us that life can happen anywhere. Work on getting your business up and running, even if it means servicing customers remotely or temporarily setting up shop in an empty warehouse.
  • Work out a recovery plan. Once the dust has settled, outline a realistic plan for full recovery.

Rebuilding after a natural disaster isn’t easy, but there is relief available to those who need it.

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CUNA 2023 diamond award trophy icon

CUNA 2023 Diamond Award Winner

Financial Education

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