As a Coast Guard spouse, how do you prepare for a natural disaster when your active duty spouse is off helping others and the devastation has come to your doorstep? Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA), the nonprofit that supports the Coast Guard workforce with emergency financial assistance during life’s transitional moments, provides resources for disaster preparedness and response. And, since we are in the midst of hurricane season, below are resources you should be aware of and the processes you need to access them, both before and after an event.
Being prepared before a natural disaster occurs is key, explained Erica Chapman, the CGMA’s education services specialist. “When disaster strikes, the active duty member within a household often leaves to help others while family members are left to navigate at home, sometimes without the authorizations they need to access emergency services like purchasing food, replacing damage personal goods, removing pests, or making home repairs.”
Here are steps that you can follow before an event occurs in your area:
- Pre-authorization – If your spouse is in a deployable unit, ensure they provide you with a copy of CGMA’s Pre-Authorization Form (CGMA form 16) to facilitate you and your family having immediate access to assistance during a disaster.
- Enroll in Zelle – Make sure that you spend a few minutes to enroll in Zelle as soon as you can since paper checks may not be useful when an emergency occurs. Zelle is free and it is the only method by which CGMA can deposit funds directly into the member’s account and it is primarily available through all banks including USAA and Navy Federal.
“If you register with Zelle and apply for funding, we can make sure you can receive money quickly,” said Chapman. “We are entering into the 21st Century so this is an option when we don’t have electricity and banks aren’t open.”
When a natural event occurs in your area, CGMA provides emergency loans and grants that you can apply for and for which you may be eligible. Here are post disaster resources:
- Immediate Disaster Loans – Members may borrow up to $6,000 dollars for urgent needs using CGMA Form 6, which does not require command endorsement nor a budget form. Visit the CGMA website for specific application criteria. Loan repayment may be deferred for up to four months, with CGMA approval, and the amount may be eligible to be converted into a grant.
- Disaster Grants/ Disaster Loan to Grant Conversions – You may use CGMA Form 6a to apply for a grant or to apply to convert a previous disaster loan to a grant. As with the loan, this form does not require command endorsement or a budget form, however, it must be submitted within 90 days of the storm’s arrival.
“CGMA is funded by shipmates and shipmates show up for shipmates on their worst days. We have resources ready to deploy if you need them. We are sorry people have to go through this. Hurricanes throw a lot of wind and rain at people but we are there to help them pick up the pieces,” said Chapman.
Sean Fennell, CGMA’s chief operating officer, extends his gratitude to the families and the representatives who serve them. “Thanks to the many networks out there sharing the information, because of them spouses are more aware than ever before of where they can get assistance without waiting for their spouse to return home. Our legacy of Helping Our Own is stronger than ever thanks to the increased access available to families. I am very proud of our reps who help all the Coast Guard families within their AORs while cutters are underway or while members are deployed away from home.”
The emergency resources from CGMA can be found here. Also refer to CGMA’s website for additional resources you may need.