Financial Assistance for Disaster Relief

| 6 min read Financial Assistance

What’s your family disaster recovery plan? If your family had to flee from a hurricane, wildfire, flood, or other natural disasters, would you be ready? What happens if you return from your evacuation and discover that your property has been damaged or destroyed? If you don’t have an insurance policy covering a specific type of damage, how will you and your family recover financially?

As we’ve seen on GoFundMe in recent years, the pace, scale, and cost of natural disasters are increasing. Crowdfunding for natural disaster recovery has become a large category on our platform, with fundraisers like Love Army for Mexico stepping up to help people recovering from disaster.

We’ve put together this disaster recovery information to help you be prepared—or to recover and rebuild. We hope this helps. If you need help right now, one of the best options is to start a free crowdfunding fundraiser.

How to fund your post-disaster recovery

Financial assistance for disaster recovery comes from a mix of public and private resources. If you didn’t have insurance, there are still several sources of financial assistance available to you—especially if the disaster was large enough to trigger federal aid programs.

1. Use available public resources

Most provinces have their own disaster-related assistance programs. Start by contacting your province’s emergency management agency for more information.

If the scale of any disaster exceeds a province’s capacity to respond, the federal government can assist. Public Safety Canada offers support through Small Business financing, Employment Insurance, Food and Emergency Response System, Shelter Enhancement Programs, and much more. Check out the full list of resources

2. Get assistance for your business

The Canada Small Business Financing Program makes it easier for small businesses to get loans from financial institutions by sharing the risk with lenders. The Canadian Redcross is also committed to supporting small businesses. For example, during the British Columbia 2017 wildfires, the Redcross partnered with the federal government to provide financial assistance for uninsured financial losses as a result of the disaster.

3. Crowdfund your recovery

If you’re recovering from a large disaster, it’s likely many of its victims are already raising funds for their recovery on GoFundMe’s free crowdfunding platform. Beyond raising money, the beauty of crowdfunding is that it gives your friends and family a place to offer you words of encouragement and support. 

If you run a similar fundraiser, use the name of the disaster in the title of your fundraiser. It will help people find and support you.

For a more in-depth guide to getting your disaster recovery fundraiser up and running, see Six Steps for Running a Successful Disaster Relief Fund.

Check out fundraising relief efforts on GoFundMe for Southern California Wildfires and the Hawaii floods to see how crowdfunding has helped individuals and families rebuild with resilience.

4. Reach out for help from nonprofits

Charities, faith-based organizations, and foundations also provide material and financial assistance for disaster recovery.

  • Canadian Red Cross: Responding to an emergency every eight minutes, the Canadian Red Cross assists with everything from small house fires to multistate natural disasters.
  • Disaster Aid Canada: Assists in delivering humanitarian aid, shelter, sustainable water systems and hygiene products to people affected by natural and other disasters
  • ShelterBox: ShelterBox is dedicated to helping ensure no family is left without shelter after a natural disaster or conflict 
  • GlobalMedic: The David McAntony Gibson Foundation, which operates as GlobalMedic, is a registered Canadian charity that has provided disaster relief and life-saving humanitarian aid since 2002.

Develop a family disaster recovery plan

If you’re reading this before the next disaster strikes, then time is on your side. Follow these guidelines to prepare for a possible disaster. If the worst happens, you’ll be able to recover more quickly.

Save an emergency fund

  • Having an emergency fund is an important aspect of preparedness for anything life may throw at you, including a disaster.
  • Emergency funds also protect you from going into debt, especially credit card debt.
  • See Tips for Building a Healthy Emergency Fund for pointers on saving for a future emergency.

Get insured

  • Having adequate insurance coverage for floods, fires, earthquakes, and storms is an important part of protecting yourself from the financial toll of future disasters.

Secure your household

  • Bolt heavy bookshelves to the wall, secure your chimney, reinforce your foundation, and take other key steps to help prevent personal injury and property loss in the event of an earthquake.
  • Follow fire department guidelines to create a “defensible barrier” between your house and a possible fire. Keep trees, shrubs, and tall grasses a safe distance from your house, and install a fire-resistant roof.
  • Prepare your house and property for a flood. If flooding is likely, move rugs, furniture, electrical items, and valuables to a higher level. Place important documents and medical supplies in waterproof cases. If you’re relocating, take your pets with you if it’s safe to. If not, leave adequate food and water and move them to a safe place. Sandbag low areas around your house exterior.

Be prepared for an evacuation

  • Have a bug-out bag packed with essential clothing, food, water, medication, cash, and other crucial supplies for your family and pets. Even if you’re given only minutes to evacuate, you can grab it and go.
  • Sit down with your family to develop and agree on an evacuation plan. Your plan needs to include the possibility that you’ll be in different locations when disaster strikes. How and where will you meet up?
  • Know your neighbourhood’s emergency response plan, including sheltering places.
  • If you’re given slightly more time to evacuate, you’ll have time to pack. Plan ahead of time which items you’ll take with you, and which you’ll leave behind.

Your road to recovery

Recovering from a disaster is a gradual process. When you’re intensely focused on restoring your material security, it’s easy to lose sight of your mental and physical wellbeing—take care of yourself. Communities that survive disaster can emerge stronger for it, and yours can, too. Communities, families, and individuals have relied on GoFundMe’s free crowdfunding platform to recover financially and emotionally from disaster. If you haven’t already, start a fundraiser to help you or those you love.

Start a fundraiser

Written by caitlin