FEMA funds $7.4 million in flood recovery

Deadlines near to file for flood assistance

Compiled by Joe Southern

FEMATwo floods this spring in Fort Bend County have affected 745 households that have been approved for FEMA assistance totaling $7,426,000.

FEMA spokesman Ray Perez said that number is expected to climb with deadlines drawing near for residents to file claims from the floods. The deadline to apply for federal disaster assistance for the April 17-30 storms is July 29. If damage occurred May 26-June 24, the registration deadline is Aug. 10.

Additionally, Perez said the disaster recovery center at Sacred Heart Church, 507 S. 4th St. in Richmond will close on Friday, July 29.

The July 29 deadline is for people in Anderson, Austin, Cherokee, Colorado, Fayette, Fort Bend, Grimes, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, Parker, San Jacinto, Smith, Waller.

The Aug. 10 deadline is for those in Austin, Bastrop, Brazoria, Brazos, Burleson, Eastland, Fayette, Fort Bend, Grimes, Harris, Hidalgo, Hood, Kleberg, Lee, Liberty, Montgomery, Palo Pinto, Parker, San Jacinto, Stephens, Travis, Tyler, Waller and Washington counties.

Presidential disaster declarations for the two storms made federal assistance available to eligible individuals and households as well as those working in the designated counties. Some counties are included in both declarations.

Applying for disaster assistance is essentially a two-step process, which ensures consideration for all FEMA programs and the U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loans. First, register with FEMA, then complete and return the no-obligation SBA loan application, if one is offered. There is no charge to apply for the loan and if approved, no obligation to accept it.

Disaster survivors may register online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by phone at 800-621-3362 (FEMA). Applicants who use 711 or Video Relay Service may also call 800-621-3362. Persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY may call 800-462-7585. The toll-free numbers are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Multilingual operators are available.

Registration is also available at a disaster recovery center. To find the nearest one, go online to the disaster recovery center locator at asd.fema.gov/inter/locator.

FEMA grants do not have to be repaid. FEMA assistance is nontaxable and will not affect eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid or other federal benefits. Survivors should register even if they have insurance. FEMA cannot duplicate insurance payments, but underinsured applicants may receive help after their claims have been settled.

A free multilingual guide to the types of assistance available can be found at fema.gov/help-after-disaster.

For more information on the Texas recovery, visit the disaster webpage for the May-June storms at fema.gov/disaster/4272; or visit the Texas Division of Emergency Management website at txdps.state.tx.us/dem.

Don’t wait for insurance settlement to register with FEMA

Texas residents who filed their homeowner’s insurance claims for disaster-related damage are encouraged to register with FEMA even if they did not receive a final insurance settlement.

Disaster officials say survivors shouldn’t delay filing a FEMA grant application because they’re waiting for a decision from their insurance companies.

“In order to process your grant application, FEMA will ask for the name of your insurance carrier and your claim number,” said Federal Coordinating Officer William J. Doran III, who is in charge of FEMA’s operations in Texas. “We will ask if you received a settlement letter or an eligibility letter because FEMA does not reimburse losses covered by insurance.”

It is best to document disaster-related damage with photos or videos but FEMA doesn’t need that physical evidence to complete an application. The agency understands that some damaged items must be disposed of during cleanup or before a FEMA inspector visits the property.

FEMA: Use funds for its intended purpose

Federal officials are cautioning Texans who have received disaster assistance from FEMA to use the money for its intended purpose and to keep disaster spending receipts for three years.

Disaster assistance is to help residents meet basic disaster-related needs and funds are distributed via check or direct deposit. A letter explaining what the payment is to be used for arrives within a day or two of the check or direct deposit payment.

If an applicant spends the payment on anything other than the purpose for which it is directed, he or she may be denied assistance the next time a disaster strikes. In some cases, FEMA will ask that the money be returned.

“Money from FEMA is not like a tax refund from the IRS, so please don’t treat it as such,” said Federal Coordinating Officer William J. Doran III, who is in charge of FEMA’s operations in Texas. “These funds are to help survivors in their disaster recovery and shouldn’t be used for anything else.”

Those receiving assistance are urged to keep receipts of their disaster spending for three years to document the money was used to meet disaster-related needs. If a recipient receives an insurance settlement to cover the same expenses, he or she must reimburse FEMA. Random audits are conducted to confirm funds were spent properly.

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