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ABA: The American Bankers Association

Recovering Financially After a Disaster

From the ABA Foundation


Disasters can devastate communities and affect hundreds of thousands of families in a matter of minutes. Depending on the severity of the disaster, survivors may not have access to bank accounts or face disruption in employment. Survivors may also become targets for fraud, thereby making disaster recovery even more difficult. 

This page hosts resources and information to help those struggling financially to make their housing payments, auto and student loan payments, need assistance rebuilding a business or are worried about future payments after a disaster. If you can't pay your bills after a disaster, contact your creditors and lenders and let them know your situation.

Protect Yourself and Your Money

Money Management

If your ATM, debit card or credit cards are lost or stolen, contact your bank or card issuer immediately. The card issuer will work with you to reissue another card.

Beware of Scams

Scammers prey on people’s fears. They use fake websites, bogus products, emails, text messages and social media posts to find ways to steal your financial assets and your identity. Learn more tips to avoid disaster scams, fraud and how you can protect your financial assets.

Review Your Credit

Your credit report contains vital financial information. Check for possible fraud or mistakes on your accounts, or if you need help identifying creditors. Under federal law, you are entitled to a copy of your credit report annually from the three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and Transunion.

Register for Financial Assistance

Challenged with the financial reality of property damage, job loss, credit issues, small business disruption and debt, disaster survivors need to know how to recover financially. Once urgent needs are met, start thinking about your finances and register for assistance to help pay for utilities, repairs to your home, car or other property. 

  • FEMA’s Individual and Households Program provides financial and direct services after a disaster. 
  • Disaster Assistance Improvement Program (DAIP) can provide disaster survivors with information, support, services and a way to access and apply for disaster assistance.
  • HOPE Coalition America (HCA) Operation HOPE has created the only financial emergency preparedness and recovery service in America. In partnership with FEMA and the Red Cross, HCA deploys teams in response to federally-declared disasters to serve as financial advocates for survivors. Through the HOPE Crisis Hotline and HCA on-site counseling centers, financial wellbeing coaches help survivors communicate with creditors, obtain SBA loans, prevent foreclosures and provide emergency budget counseling.
  • If applicable, contact benefit providers to advise on new and/or temporary addresses, and ask if benefit payments are available by check, direct deposit or payment card. 
    • Social Security Administration: 1-800-772-1213
    • Veterans Benefits Administration: 1-800-827-1000
    • Department of Labor (Unemployment Insurance): 1-866-4-USA-DOL

Personal Property Damage

If there is damage to your home, apartment, business or car, immediately contact your insurance company to start the claims process. Depending on your policy, you may be required to file a claim within a specific timeframe after a disaster. Be sure to ask your insurance company and your mortgage company or servicer how and when the insurance funds will be distributed.

Knowing this information before hiring a contractor to repair your home or business will help you avoid being unable to pay the contractor. You should also review the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) tips for hiring contractors to fix or rebuild your home.

Managing Payments

Utility Payments

If you cannot live in your house or apartment due to damage, contact your utility companies and ask them to suspend your service. This may free up money in your budget for the coming months. You may want to change how you receive your bills from paper to electronic. Receiving your bills electronically will help avoid past due notices, late fees or unpaid bills going to collections, which can negatively affect your credit.

If you are still in your house or apartment and are having trouble paying your utilities, contact the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). They may provide disaster relief funding so you can pay utility bills or pay to reconnect utilities.

Credit Card Payments

Contact your credit card company before your next payment is due. Many credit card companies may be willing to work with you to change your payment if you face a financial emergency. Clearly explain why you can’t make the minimum payment, how much you can afford, when you could start remaking your regular payments or what new payment you are requesting and for how long.

If you receive your credit card bill in paper form, you may want to change to electronic. This way, you can continue to receive your bill and avoid past due notices, late fees or the unpaid bill going to collections, all of which negatively affect your credit.

Car Payments

If you will have trouble making your auto loan or think that you may fall behind, contact your lender and explain your situation. The sooner you contact your lender, the more options your lender may be able to offer you. Working with your lender is a show of good-faith on your part to pay back your debt and can help keep your credit in good standing.

Below are examples of payment options that may be offered by a lender. However, you should know that these options will increase the amount of interest you pay over the loan's life to varying degrees; some options may increase your payment amount or the number of payments you owe. Visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) website to learn more about these options and determine which is best for your situation.

  • Ask to change the date your payment is due
  • Request a payment plan
  • Ask for a payment extension/deferral
  • Refinance your auto loan

When you speak with your lender, be sure to get the representative's name, ID number (if they have one) and any applicable case numbers associated with your request. It's also a good idea to ask the lender to provide you with the agreement in writing. If you have been displaced and are not at your home address, request that the agreement be emailed. 

Student Loan Payments

Just like mortgages and auto loans, making your student loan payments on-time is extremely important. If you have set up your student loan payment on auto-pay, your lender will continue to deduct your payment from your financial institution. However, if you think you may have trouble making future student loan payments, gather your account information and contact your student loan servicer.

  • What is a student loan servicer? A student loan servicer is a company that manages student loans. Essentially, they are a third party that acts as a middleman between you and your lender. When you make a payment toward your student loan, it is managed by your loan servicer. Student loan servicers work with borrowers to help manage their student loan repayment. If borrowers would like to change their repayment plan or apply for deferment or forbearance, they need to discuss these options with their loan servicer first. If you have federal student loans, your loan servicer is assigned by the Department of Education.

Small Business Recovery Assistance

After a disaster, a small business owner has to take care of employees' needs, communicate the damages sustained, and manage financial matters like insurance, disaster assistance and restoring operations. FEMA's standard aid may not cover your small business needs; however, you can apply for a disaster loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to help your business recover.

More Financial Recovery Resources

Housing Assistance

Assistance for Renters

Once you and your family are safe after a disaster, immediately contact your landlord. If you can pay your rent, you should continue to do so. 

If you have renter’s insurance, contact your insurance company. When you speak with your insurance company, be sure to get the representative's name, ID number (if they have one) and any applicable numbers associated with your claim. It’s also a good idea to ask the insurance company to provide you with the claim in writing and email it to you.   

Next, you may want to consider applying for assistance through FEMA’s Individual and Households Program, which provides financial and direct services after a disaster.

Assistance for Homeowners

If you’re having trouble paying your mortgage after a disaster, immediately contact your lender or loan servicer. But if you can pay your mortgage, you should continue to do so. If your circumstances change, you can request help at that time.

You can also contact the Homeowner’s HOPE™ Hotline at 1-888-995-HOPE (4673) for assistance and FREE confidential support from a HUD-approved housing counselor.

Federally funded mortgages have programs to help borrowers affected by natural disasters. If a disaster impacts your ability to pay your mortgage, and you have a federally funded mortgage, you may be eligible to delay making your monthly mortgage payments for a period of time. 

During this temporary period:

  • You won’t incur late fees.
  • Foreclosure and other legal proceedings will be suspended.

What is a Federally Funded Mortgage? It is a mortgage owned or insured by a government agency such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the VA or FHA. Your servicer will be able to tell you if you have a federally backed mortgage. Even if you learn that your mortgage is not federally backed and you are experiencing a financial hardship related to the disaster, you should contact your servicer to ask for help.

Assistance for Veteran Homeowners

Veterans who have questions regarding their home loans should contact VA's home loan program toll-free number, 1-877-827-3702, to speak with a Loan Technician.

Veterans whose homes have ever been modified with VA Specially Adapted Housing grant funds should also contact VA at 1-877-827-3702 to speak with a staff person. Depending on the situation, additional grant funds may be available to help repair a disaster-damaged home.

More specific veteran disaster-related information can be found in VA Guidance on Natural Disasters.

Housing and Credit Counseling

Counselors are professionally trained to help you assess your situation and evaluate the best financial options to consider. For assistance, contact:

Other Disaster Recovery Resources