JACKSON, Tenn. – With federal disaster assistance funds being distributed to parts of Tennessee, disaster management officials are urging recipients to be careful how they spend the money they receive.
“There are specific limitations on the spending of these funds,” said Marsha Cornish, deputy state coordinator for the tornado disaster for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. “Disaster victims could be victimized again by dishonest people trying to take advantage of the situation.” Cornish said spending assistance funds often causes problems for survivors in a disaster.
“This is a time when people are vulnerable and predators are aware of their vulnerability,” said FEMA’s Michael Bolch, the federal official in charge of disaster recovery in Tennessee. “When dealing with thousands of dollars, caution is the operative word.”
Bolch said paper checks should be deposited in the recipient’s bank account as soon as possible, and recipients should never carry large sums of cash or deal with strangers offering deposit or check-cashing services. “Direct deposit is the fastest, most secure way to receive assistance funds,” said Bolch.
“Financial assistance is intended to ease the pain of serious disaster losses and it is meant to be used for that purpose,” Cornish said. She also urged applicants to avoid the temptation to pay household bills or make purchases unrelated to disaster-created needs. Cornish said it is important for recipients to keep receipts for their purchases and to stay in touch with FEMA if their situations change.
For more information, call FEMA’s toll-free number, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), or 1-800-462-7585, a TTY line for those with hearing or speech impairments.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.