Advice for Consumers and Business Owners
The FDIC is working cooperatively with all the state and federal banking agencies and other organizations to determine the status of financial institutions located in the affected areas. If you have questions concerning the operations of your financial institution, please call your financial institution or visit your financial institution's web site.
FDIC's Money Smart for Adults - PDF "Disaster-Financial Preparation and Recovery" module offers tips and tools on how to financially prepare for and recover from disasters.
Recovering Financially From Disasters
After a disaster, your first priority is making sure you and your loved ones are safe and secure.
Visit DisasterAssistance.gov to learn more.
- Assess and document the damage in writing and with photos.
- Contact your insurance providers about damage.
- Find a safe place to store cash and valuables that you took from your home.
- Arrange for alternative transportation if you use a car or other vehicle to get to work and it is damaged.
- Find out how you can repair, replace or borrow replacement for any assistive technology you use that was damaged. This could include various items, such as mobile devices, speaking devices, hearing aids, and specialized computer equipment.
- Continue making housing payments or contact lender or landlord as soon as possible if you do not expect to be able to make a payment. They may be able to offer some flexibility. This is important to avoid or limit negative information on your credit reports.
- Assess and document damage in writing and with photos.
- Contact your insurance providers about damage to your home if your have homeowners or renter's insurance.
- Contact your landlord about damage to your home if you rent.
- Get help from a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-certified housing counseling agency in your area.
- Contact your employers to inform them of your situation.
- Contact your benefit provider if you receive public benefits or pension benefits, including disability benefits.
- Give them your new address, if applicable. If necessary, they can cancel any checks that were sent to an address that you can no longer reach because of the disaster.
- Keep track of how many days of work you miss because of the disaster and how much money you would have earned. Also keep track of how many days you are unable to live at home due to the disaster. This could be relevant for taxes and insurance.
- For example, an insurance policy may include a "loss of use" provision that covers expenses you had to pay because you were not able to live in your home.
- Care for your service animal and repair assistive technology if necessary so you can resume work after the disaster.
- Contact your disability insurance provider if you are unable to work following the disaster.
- Explore public benefits you may now be eligible to receive.
- For example, contact your state's unemployment insurance office about unemployment benefits if you cannot work because your place of employment was severely damaged.
- If there are fatalities, contact the life insurance provider to file a claim.
- If you or a member of your household is a student, contact the school and/or financial aid office to find out if they can offer any help.
- Continue paying your bills. Paying late or not at all can result in fees, interest charges, and damage to your credit scores.
- Contact the post office and let them know where to deliver your mail.
- Contact your financial institutions and find out what flexibility or support they can offer you.
- Contact your creditors, such as utility companies, credit card companies, and loan providers. Make sure they have your current contact information and mailing address. Discuss your situation and what flexibility they can offer on the amount and timing of upcoming payments.
- Keep records of what your spend as you recover from the disaster and save receipts. Assistance program on your insurance company may reimburse you for some of those expenses.
- Assess assistance programs that provide help to people affected by disasters. Shelter, food and other necessities they provide will reduce the expenses you need to provide.
- Get and review your free credit reports. Look for errors that indicate your identity has been stolen, such as accounts you do not recognize.
- Contact financial institutions to report lost debit cards, automated teller machine (ATM) cards, prepaid cards, credit cards, or checks as appropriate. For example, if you cannot locate a credit card, ask your credit card provider to cancel it and send you a new one.
- Contact your department of motor vehicles if your lost your driver's license or state-issued ID card. Although a driver's license or other ID is not money, someone could use your identification to commit fraud which may involve money.
- Find a safe place for the financial information, cash, and valuables you took with you, if you evacuated.
- Contact the post office and let them know where to deliver your mail. You want to limit the risk that others can access mail that may include your personal or financial information.
After you have addressed basic safety and security needs, these are steps you can take to help recover financially.
- If you have any issues with companies as you recover from a disaster, first contact the company directly. Then, if needed, contact the regulatory agency.
- Search Bank Find for bank branch locations and websites. To locate a bank or other depository institution's federal regulator, call the FDIC toll-free at 1-877-ASK-FDIC (1-877-275-3342).
- To locate your state's insurance regulator, go to the website of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and search for "state map."
- You can also file a complaint with your state insurance regulator with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
- For disputes with other entities, such as contractors, consider contacting your state attorney general's office or your state consumer protection office.
A wide variety of organizations can help you recover from disasters. No single organization does it all. Plan on seeking help from a variety of sources.
- Start with DisasterAssistance.gov
- Visit Disaster Recover Centers set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). You also may follow FEMA on Twitter or Facebook.
- Find out about locally organized disaster relief and recovery meetings.
Financial Recovery Resources
- Again, start with DisasterAssistance.gov.
- FEMA - Individuals and Households Program.
- Small Business Administration (SBA) - low-interest, long-term disaster loans.
- Department of Agriculture (USDA) - loans for recovery of homes, businesses and farms.
- Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) - approved housing counselling agencies or call 800-569-4287.
- Home Preservation Hotline at 1-888-995-HOPE (4673) or online.
- FDIC Consumer News article: Disaster Recovery and Your Money: A Basic To-Do-List
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) published tips for consumers impacted by natural disasters to help them rebuild their financial standing:
Where to Get More Information or Help
- Visit Ready.gov (English) and Listo.gov (Spanish) for more information to help prepare for and respond to emergencies.
- Readiness recommendations for the disability community.
- FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers are accessible facilities and mobile offices you can visit to learn more about FEMA and other disaster assistance programs.
- Visit FEMA to learn about accessible emergency management.
- The University of Minnesota Extension developed Recovery After Disaster: The Family Financial Toolkit, a comprehensive resource that offers strategies and provides tools that can help you recover financially after a disaster. Find the guide and accompanying video series by visiting the University of Minnesota Extension and searching for "recovery after disaster."
- The Red Cross site has information on shelter locations, disaster recovery guidelines and how to register for the "Search the Safe and Well" registry. Follow the "Get Help" tab on their site to learn more.
- Social Security Information on Office Closings and Emergencies
Watch Out for Scams
Not everyone who offers help during a disaster is a legitimate source of help. Be on the lookout for scams by people who are taking advantage of the situation.
Be selective when you hire or accept help. Scammers could be posing as home repair contractors, charities, or other organizations involved in disaster relief efforts.
To Avoid Scams:
- Get and check references.
- Ask to see state or local permits.
- Don't pay a contractor all the money you owe them until they finish all the work.
- Get and keep receipts.
- Don't pay for services that should be free.
- Research organizations you are not familiar with.
- Protect your information.
- Monitor your credit reports.
- Read scam alerts.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) maintains a list of recent scams and how to recognize the warning signs. You can report scams there, too.
The following article in the FDIC Consumer News may also be helpful:
Adjust Your Financial Picture After The Disaster
Here are some of the things you can do to reflect your post-disaster reality:
- Review your household's spending and saving plan and adjust it, if necessary.
- Work with lenders if you need help managing your debts.
- Contact your financial institution and ask if they have programs or initiatives to help support your recovery after the disaster.
- Get and review your credit reports and work on resolving any issues.
- Set new goals and make a plan to reach them.
Preparing Financially In Advance For Disasters
If a disaster occurs, the government and disaster-relief organizations will try to help you, but you need to be ready as well.
No one is ever 100 percent prepared for a disaster. To be better prepared financially, you can take the following actions before a disaster happens:
Get the Insurance You Need
Insurance is a critical support after disasters, but you need to get the insurance before a disaster strikes.
- Shop around for the best deal on insurance.
- Periodically review all your insurance coverage. Find out what is and what is not covered by your policies.
- Types of insurance that could help you be better prepared for a disaster include automobile, disability, life, renter's, and homeowners.
- Keep records of your personal property and the estimated value of the things you own.
- See guidance and tools on creating an inventory of your property from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Visit the Association's InsureU and search for "inventory".
Set Money Aside in an Emergency Savings Fund
- Having an emergency savings fund can save you time, money, and stress.
- Even building a small emergency savings fund can be helpful. Set a realistic goal for your emergency savings fund and start saving money towards that goal.
Keep Some Cash in a Safe Place
- In the event of a disaster, for a period of time you may only be able to pay for everyday purchases with cash.
- Keep some cash in a safe place where you can access it quickly in case of evacuation. Consider storing it in a waterproof bag kept in a fire resistant box or safe.
- You may want to keep the cash in a larger emergency kit. It should include supplies you would need to survive on your own for several days. It may be called a GO bag, or Bug Out Bag (BOB), or something else.
- DO NOT keep more cash at home then necessary for your immediate needs after a disaster.
Sign Up for Direct Deposit
A disaster can make it more difficult to pick up your mail from your regular address. With direct deposit, your paycheck and public benefits go directly into your account at a financial institution. Direct deposit will help you avoid missing out on important income during a disaster. If you don't already have an account at a financial institution, you may want to consider opening one.
Consider Arranging for Online or Mobile Banking
- Your financial institution may be temporarily inaccessible after a disaster. You may be able to pay bills online, deposit checks, and conduct other transactions using your computer, smartphone, or other device.
- With online or mobile access, you can also communicate with your financial institution. They may offer flexibility and support during and after a disaster.
Keep Financial Documents and Information in a Safe Place
Having access to personal, financial, insurance, medical, and other records is crucial for starting the process of recovery quickly and efficiently. Remember to update your records to reflect changes over time.
Ideas for places to store important hardcopy financial documents include:
- At home in a waterproof bag kept in a fire resistant box or safe.
- In your GO bag or Bug Out Bag, or BOB.
- In a safe deposit box in a financial institution.
Consider scanning these records and storing the images away from home. You could email them to yourself at a secure account or use a secure offsite data storage service.
If you have electronic financial information, consider keeping it:
- On a password-protected removable flash drive or external hard drive that you keep in your fire resistant box or safe.
- At a secure offsite data storage service.
Keep your records updated.
- For example, if you open a new savings account, add information on that account to what you already have stored in a safe place.
Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK)
Go to FEMA and search for "EFFAK" to download Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK): Strengthen Your Financial Preparedness for Disasters and Emergencies. The publication includes checklists and forms to help you prepare an EFFAK.
The following article in the FDIC Consumer News may be helpful: