HAMPTON, Va. -- For many Virginia victims of Hurricane Floyd, the check really is in the mail.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Virginia Department of Emergency Services report that by Wednesday, Oct. 14, $2 million of disaster housing assistance grants had been mailed to 1,556 Virginia residents.
"This money is designed to help individuals and families meet immediate needs for housing or to return their residence to a livable condition," said John Milchak, a FEMA disaster housing official. In some cases, Milchak said, assistance checks may arrive in advance of a letter explaining the authorized uses for the money. That leaves some people wondering if they can spend the money right away. They may, but because the check does not include a notation of the authorized repairs, recipients are encouraged to call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-525-0321 (TTY 1-800-462-7585) to ask about the specific items approved.
Recipients may cash the check even before the letter arrives. Using the funds for other than authorized purposes will make the recipient ineligible for additional housing assistance from FEMA. Disaster officials stress that grants provided under the Disaster Housing Program are intended to provide immediate help, not to repair all disaster-related damage or repairs that might be covered by individual insurance. Housing assistance funds may not be used to pay for utilities, moving expenses, clothing and personal property or for staying with family or friends.
For long-term recovery efforts, other federal assistance may be available in the form of low interest loans from the Small Business Administration and the Farm Service Agency. These loans may be used to repair or replace property and personal belongings not covered by insurance. Tax refunds also may be available for items that were not covered by insurance.Anyone affected by Hurricane Floyd who has not registered for assistance with FEMA may begin the process by calling 1-800-462-9029 (TTY 1-800- 462-7585) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily.