At the end of each week, we post a "What We’re Watching" blog as we look ahead to the weekend and recap events from the week. We encourage you to share it with your friends and family, and have a safe weekend.
Assistance available for Mississippi storms and tornadoes
On Wednesday, President Obama made federal assistance available to individuals and families affected by the Feb. 10 Mississippi storms, tornadoes, and flooding in Forrest and Lamar counties. This assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in Forrest and Lamar counties can register for assistance online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Disaster assistance applicants, who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice. (Additional damage assessments are ongoing, so keep an eye on the Mississippi disaster page for any updates.)
Taxes and disaster assistance
Tax season is upon us, so I wanted to address the impact federal disaster assistance has on taxes. If you received FEMA assistance in the last year, it is not considered taxable income. I’ll say it again: those who received FEMA assistance will not pay additional federal taxes or lose Social Security or other government benefits. For more information, check out the IRS website, which has specific sections for those who received disaster assistance in 2012.
Photos of the week
CAPTION: Holgate, N.J., Feb. 6, 2013 -- While these homes may look bad, they received little hurricane damage to the actual living spaces due to their elevation above base flood elevation prior to the storm. Check out this publication for more details about protecting your home from flood damage.
CAPTION: Beach Haven, N.J., Feb. 6, 2013 -- Signs of recovery in the form of new construction, elevated to the new standards, are seen in Beach Haven and elsewhere in Long Beach Island.
Videos of the week
It’s been over 100 days since Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, but response and recovery efforts are still going at full speed. Here’s a look at some of the key points to recovery in New Jersey, where over 58,000 applicants have been approved for federal disaster assistance, resulting in over $358 million going to impacted individuals and families.
The TODAY Show’s Al Roker has been in some of the most powerful storms Mother Nature can produce, so he knows the importance of getting prepared before severe weather. He recently teamed up with FEMA’s Ready campaign and the Ad Council to show just how unpredictable the weather can be:
If you’re interested in learning more about how the video was made, here’s a behind the scenes look. And as the video said, check out Ready.gov for information on getting your home, family, or business prepared for any emergency.
Mark your calendars; Promote severe weather safety
For those emergency managers and community leaders among us, I’d like to remind you that National Severe Weather Awareness Week is March 3-9. FEMA and our partners will be spreading the word about how people can get prepared for the severe weather threats in their community. I encourage you to check out Ready.gov/severe-weather and click on the “Talk about Severe Weather” tab. You’ll find a toolkit to help you share severe weather preparedness with your audience, wherever they are.
Have a safe weekend!