Texans Who Received FEMA Recovery Assistance Urged to Use Funds Wisely
AUSTIN August 22, 2015 – Texans have received nearly $50 million in grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help recover from losses caused by the flooding and severe storms from May 4 through June 22. While the assistance is tax free and the grants do not have to be repaid, survivors are reminded to use their funds wisely and solely for recovery.
When a grant is awarded, FEMA sends a letter listing examples of approved uses that include home repair, rental assistance for a different place to live temporarily, and other disaster-related expenses. These include repair or replacement of a flooded essential vehicle or medical care for an injury caused by the disaster. Disaster grants should not be used for regular living expenses, such as utility bills or food, medical or dental expenses not related to the disaster, travel, entertainment, or any other discretionary expenses not disaster related.
By now, survivors who had insurance may have received settlements. Since grants by law cannot duplicate funds received from other sources, it’s important for survivors to update FEMA. The best way is to call FEMA’s toll-free Helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362) which is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice. Multilingual operators are available. Disaster assistance applicants, who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 800-462-7585 directly. Users of 711 or Video Relay Services (VRS) should call 800-621-3362.
Survivors who have not yet registered for assistance are encouraged to do so before the August 27 deadline using the same phone number or by going online to www.disasterassistance.gov. They also can visit a disaster recovery center (DRC) where specialists with state, FEMA, U.S. Small Business Administration, and local organizations also can answer questions in person. To locate the nearest DRC, call the Helpline or go online to http://asd.fema.gov/inter/locator/home.htm.
It’s important for grant recipients to keep receipts for three years to show how funds were spent. Following every federally declared disaster, FEMA conducts audits of disaster assistance payments to ensure taxpayer dollars were properly provided based on a survivor’s needs and used appropriately by recipients. A small percentage of survivors may be asked to repay part or all of a grant. This process is an important part of FEMA’s obligation and commitment to be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars.
For more information on Texas recovery, visit the disaster web page at www.fema.gov/disaster/4223, Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/femaregion6 and the Texas Division of Emergency Management website, https://www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem.
Texans who have questions about their flood insurance policies and coverage should contact the National Flood Insurance Program call center at 800-621-3362 between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CDT) Monday through Friday. Specialists can help service claims, provide general information regarding policies, and offer technical assistance to aid in recovery.