AUSTIN, Texas -- Residents and business owners in 21 Texas counties affected by extreme wildfires have until May 30 to apply for assistance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Damage must have been incurred between Nov. 27, 2005 and May 14, 2006 to be eligible for any of FEMA's programs.
Applicants can register by applying online or by calling FEMA toll-free at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 . Assistance is available in multiple languages. Hours are 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Central Daylight Time.
May 30 is also the deadline to apply for low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA provides loans for residences and businesses affected by the wildfires. SBA applicants who are homeowners or renters first must register with FEMA and obtain a FEMA registration ID number, but businesses may apply directly to the SBA for possible disaster assistance.
Loans are also available for economic injury due to loss of business. For more information and forms, consult the following site: www.sba.gov/disaster_recov/loaninfo/dloanassit.html
The most common form of housing help from FEMA is rental assistance. Other assistance may include grants to help with minor home repairs; grants to replace furniture and personal property not covered by insurance; money for necessary expenses and serious needs, such as funeral expenses, caused by the disaster; and low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration for homeowners and business owners.
President George W. Bush has declared 21 counties stricken by wildfires as major disaster areas in the State of Texas . The presidential declaration made FEMA's Individuals and Household Program available to affected individuals and businesses in Anderson, Bastrop , Caldwell , Callahan, Cooke, Deaf Smith, Eastland, Erath, Gray, Guadalupe, Hood, Hutchinson, Kerr, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Potter, Roberts, Tarrant, Wheeler and Wise counties.
Public assistance reimbursement for agencies has been declared for all 254 counties, with eligibility declared on a weekly basis.
As stewards of taxpayer dollars, FEMA routinely requires proof of occupancy, ownership, residency, insurance verification or other information. FEMA also actively prosecutes those who make false claims for assistance. FEMA continues to partner with state and local governments, voluntary agencies, faith-based organizations and recovery coalitions to help disaster victims with legitimate, disaster-related needs that cannot be met through FEMA programs.
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.