Irma and Harvey Are Dead, but the Financial Disaster in Their Wake Is Alive

a rabbit standing in the road of A mobile home community littered with debris from Hurricane Irma in Naples, Florida
A mobile home community littered with debris from Hurricane Irma in Naples, Florida, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. David Goldman/AP Photo

After hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the United States only weeks apart, the worst of it is behind us.

But as repair estimates for roofs, windows and floors damaged by floods, flying debris and fallen trees start rolling in, it feels like Irma and Harvey are just getting their second winds.

If your home suffered any storm damage, you’re probably knee-deep in insurance paperwork, government assistance information and contractor estimates. You just want to figure out how to make yourself whole again without going broke.

Since about 66 million Americans say they have nothing set aside in savings for emergencies, “stressed out” is probably an understatement for the feelings of those who suffered the most damage.

There is some good news, though. Between insurance, charities and funds from the federal and local government, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, though, you may still have to cover a large portion of the cost.

How Much Storm Damage Help Is on the Way?

According to CNN Money, the estimated cost to reverse the damage the hurricanes caused in Texas, Florida and Georgia is close to $150 billion.

AIR Worldwide, a catastrophe modeling firm, told CNN Money that private homeowners insurance will cover an estimated $25 billion to $35 billion of the bill in Florida, and another $10 billion in Texas. This insurance would cover wind damage from the storm — the source of most of the damage in Florida — but not flood damage.

The National Flood Insurance Program, which is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has already paid out about $204 million, and in Texas that number could rise as high as $11 billion, CNN Money reports.

It’s too soon to estimate how much will be paid out to Florida residents, but because only 18% of Florida homeowners have flood insurance, there could be a disparity between how much is needed and how much aid will be available.

For those who didn’t have flood insurance or lost their homes to one of the hurricanes, FEMA can also help.

As of Sept. 18, FEMA has already approved more than $410 million in aid for more than 232,000 Texas residents who’ve filed disaster claims. In Florida, another $87 million has been approved for about 106,000 people.

As claims roll in by the thousands everyday, those numbers are expected to keep rising.

Another $15 billion has already been approved by the federal government for Hurricane Harvey victims, and lawmakers are working to calculate how much aid Florida and Georgia residents will need after Irma.

What You’ll Likely Cover Yourself

As you can see, help is out there for major repairs, but there is still a pretty wide gap between how much has been paid out so far and the $150 billion estimate.

Of the leftover tab, those who suffered comparably minor damage might be the ones who pay the largest percentages of their repairs out of pocket.

These will be the people who may have thousands of dollars in damage to repair, but their claims are still too small to involve their insurance companies. For example, it could cost a sizable amount to fix your fence that didn’t stand a chance against Irma. The damage might be covered under your insurance policy, but filing a claim would be fruitless if the cost to repair the damage is less than your deductible.

Unfortunately, you cannot go back in time and build an emergency fund to help you recover, but now could be the perfect time to start thinking about being prepare for future disasters.

We’ve already got a few suggestions to help you build your emergency fund now, even if you don’t have a ton of extra cash lying around.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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