RAPID CITY, S.D. -- Officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are urging recipients of Disaster Housing checks to be sure that the checks are used as intended.
"If an applicant receives a check from FEMA's Disaster Housing Program, it will either be a grant to make minimal repairs on the damaged home, or rental assistance if the home is unlivable," said Pete Bakersky, FEMA's federal coordinating officer.
"It's important that individuals who have damages spend the money according to their specific grant. A letter explaining which form of assistance was awarded will come within a day or two of the applicant receiving a check," said Del Brewer, deputy federal coordinating officer.
Brewer advises residents who receive federal assistance to read their letter carefully. "If the funds are used for disaster-related housing needs other than specified in the individual's letter, such as purchase of or down payment on a house, the funds will not be subject to repayment. However, no additional funds would be available through the Disaster Housing Program," Brewer said.
Minimal repair grants are available to homeowners to make their residence livable until more extensive repairs can be made. Other examples of emergency work could include essential repairs to electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems, as well as general carpentry to make a home safe. The repair grant is not intended to restore a home to its pre-disaster condition, and cannot be used for cosmetic repairs or repairs covered by insurance.
Rental assistance grants are for homeowners or tenants whose homes were destroyed or substantially damaged, so they have a place to live until other more permanent arrangements can be made.
Disaster officials advise applicants to keep their rental and/or repair receipts since FEMA may review use of disaster housing checks up to three years after disbursement.
Registered FEMA applicants who need to make permanent housing repairs may be considered for a loan from the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Those who do not qualify for a loan may be considered for other programs.
Anyone with questions regarding the Disaster Housing Program or the status of their application can call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-525-0321 or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the speech- and hearing -impaired.