Help for loved ones from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

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On September 20, Hurricane Maria struck the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico with torrential rain and sustained winds of over 150 mph.

In addition to the tragic loss of life, the storm caused widespread flooding, seriously damaging transportation and communication infrastructure while leaving the entire island of Puerto Rico without power.

Please take a few minutes to review the information provided. If you have loved ones affected by Hurricane Maria, I encourage you to share this information with them.

I also encourage those affected by recent hurricanes to submit their FEMA claims as soon as possible, without delay. 

Bill Nelson

 

For assistance phone toll free in Florida at 1-888-671-4091, or stop by any of my offices

REUNITE WITH LOVED ONES

The Safe and Well Registry run by the American Red Cross helps those affected by disasters check in with their loved ones. To register as safe text SAFE to 78876 or register directly at: https://safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.php. To search the registry for your loved ones, use the search feature. To speak with a representative about a missing relative with a health condition, call: 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

LOCAL RESOURCES

The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration is directing those seeking information or assistance to call 202-800-3133 or email: maria1@prfaa.pr.gov.

POINT OF DISTRIBUTION LOCATIONS

To find distribution locations for food, water, and other supplies set up throughout Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, visit: https://www.fema.gov/hurricane-maria.  Select “Point of Distribution Locations.”

HELP FOR VETERANS

Veterans in need of assistance may call a 24/7 patient and family hotline at 1-800-449-8729 ext. 19400.

Veterans needing medication refills or assistance can contact the Veteran Disaster Hotline at 1-800-507-4571 or go to any VA medical facility for assistance.

The San Juan VA Medical Center emergency room and inpatient services are operational.  Appointments have resumed and VA Outpatient Clinics continue to reopen. Contact the San Juan VAMC by phone at: (910) 475-6515 or 1(800) 449-8729.

Veterans needing an emergency supply of medications may go to any retail pharmacy open to the public with a written prescription or active VA prescription bottle to receive a 30 day supply.

Updates for the VA Caribbean Healthcare System, including a list of reopened vet centers, can be found at: http://bit.ly/2eT923c, or https://www.caribbean.va.gov/.

MENTAL HEALTH

If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional distress please call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained counselor. You may also visit: http://bit.ly/2vH2Huc for more information about managing stress after a disaster and talking with children about traumatic events.

TAX RELIEF

Taxpayers in affected areas may be eligible for tax relief from the IRS. To learn more about IRS assistance for victims of Hurricane Maria, visit: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/help-for-victims-of-hurricanes-irma-and-maria.

DISASTER RECOVERY LOANS

The U.S. Small Business Administration provides various disaster loans. For more information about SBA disaster loans visit: https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/hurricane-maria.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides loans to qualifying individuals, businesses, and communities after disasters. For more information visit: https://www.usda.gov/topics/disaster/storms.

DISASTER UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE

Those who are unemployed as a result of the disaster, and who are ineligible for regular unemployment insurance, are encouraged to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) through the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). For additional information about DUA visit: https://www.dol.gov/general/hurricane-recovery or contact the DOL by phone at 1-866-487-2365.

MORTGAGE RELIEF

To find out if you qualify for temporary mortgage relief, visit the Freddie Mac website at: http://www.freddiemac.com/about/hurricane-relief.html, or Fannie Mae at: http://www.fanniemae.com/portal/about-fm/hurricane-relief.html or by phone at 1-800-2FANNIE (800-232-6643).

You may also contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to find out if you qualify for any hurricane related help with your mortgage or mortgage insurance. To contact HUD about disaster assistance visit: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/housing/sfh/ins/203h-dft or https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/housing/sfh/nsc/qaho0121

HURRICANE RESPONSE HIRING

The U.S. Small Business Administration is hiring a variety of temporary positions located throughout areas affected by recent disasters.  For more information visit: https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/hurricane-response-jobs-sba. For FEMA hiring visit: https://careers.fema.gov/hurricane-workforce.  For federal jobs in Puerto Rico visit: http://federalgovernmentjobs.us/job-location/puerto-rico-pr.html.

SHIPPING GOODS

Small businesses wanting to ship donated goods may visit the FEMA National Business Emergency Operations Center (NBEOC) at: https://www.fema.gov/nbeoc

Shipments may be coordinated through FEMA by contacting: NBEOC@fema.dhs.gov

Private companies with private air transportation wishing to fly into PR or the USVI must coordinate with the FAA to file a flight plan and receive a time slot for arrival. The FAA can be reached at: (540) 422-4029, (540) 422-4033, or (540) 422-4036.

FEMA ASSISTANCE

To apply for FEMA assistance visit: www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362) TTY: 1-800-462-7585.  To find the nearest FEMA Disaster Recovery Center visit: https://www.fema.gov/disaster/updates/4337/visit-us-disaster-recovery-center-drc

MEDICARE AND MEDICAID ENROLLMENT:

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is establishing the following special enrollment periods for Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands:  

  • Medicare special enrollment period:  This special enrollment period will allow individuals affected by these hurricanes to enroll, dis-enroll or switch Medicare health or prescription drug plans. It is available at the start of the incident period and runs through the end of the calendar year. Individuals may contact 1-800-MEDICARE to request enrollment using this special enrollment opportunity. 
  • Federal Health Insurance Exchange special enrollment period:  CMS created this special enrollment period for certain individuals impacted by these hurricanes who need to enroll in a 2017 plan through the Exchange or make changes to their existing 2017 plan. This special enrollment period will apply to individuals who experienced a special enrollment period qualifying event between 60 days prior to the start date of the incident period and December 31, 2017, but the agency was unable to complete the application, plan selection, and enrollment process due to a hurricane-related weather event in 2017. This special enrollment period will allow individuals impacted by the storms to select a new 2017 Exchange plan or make changes to their existing plan at any time through December 31, 2017. Individuals affected by the storms may contact the Exchange Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 to enroll in a plan.

In addition to the special enrollment periods for the 2017, individuals who reside in or move from areas affected by a hurricane in 2017 will be eligible for a special enrollment period that extends the 2018 Annual Open Enrollment Period through December 31, 2017. These individuals may contact the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 to request enrollment using this special enrollment period after December 15, 2017. 

These special enrollment opportunities are in addition to the Medicare and Exchange annual Open Enrollment Periods this fall and any other enrollment period for which the individual may be eligible. CMS will continue to examine the circumstances in the areas affected by hurricanes and will consider taking action that reaches beyond December 31, 2017, if needed.  

For more information on special enrollment periods for Medicare, click here.

For more information on special enrollment periods for the Health Insurance Exchange, click here.

The agency continues to update its emergency page with important information on its efforts to support hurricane response and recovery efforts.