AUSTIN, Texas -- At the request of local and state officials and with the approval of the President of the United States , Johnson County has been added to the list of counties in the wildfires region already declared to receive Individual Assistance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Assistance to the newly declared county is limited to damage occurring during the incident period from Nov. 27, 2005 to May 14, 2006. Those who suffered damage from the current wildfire season are encouraged to register online at www.fema.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing-and speech-impaired. The toll-free numbers are available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Central Daylight Time. The deadline for registration is May 30.
Applicants should be prepared to provide basic information about themselves (name, permanent address, telephone number), insurance coverage and any other information to help substantiate losses. Also, applicants should save pertinent receipts to support claims. FEMA provides assistance to wildfire victims who have eligible disaster-related expenses and serious needs that are not covered by insurance. Assistance for individuals and families who suffered damage may include:
- Grants to rent a home to live in if the damaged house is unlivable. Initial temporary housing assistance may be provided for one month for homeowners or renters. Assistance may be extended if requested, based on a review of individual applicant requirements.
- Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance.
- Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs. Reimbursement is not available to households for spoiled food or the loss of freezer and refrigerator contents due to lack of power, but may include miscellaneous items such as a chain saw, dehumidifier or wet/dry vacuum.
- Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance. Loans up to $200,000 are available to repair/replace real estate and $40,000 to repair/replace personal property. The SBA also provides loans to eligible businesses to repair or replace disaster-damaged property and provide working capital to help a business through a recovery period due to economic loss stemming from disaster-related causes.
- Free crisis counseling and free legal aid.
There are penalties for falsely reporting disaster damages. FEMA and the Texas Governor's Division of Emergency Management are coordinating a joint effort to uncover fraud attempts. People who encounter fraudulent scams should report them to their local law enforcement; the Attorney General's Office of Consumer Protection at 1-800-337-3928; or call the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General hotline at 1-866-720-5721.
On Jan. 11 and in subsequent amendments, the presidential disaster declaration made FEMA's Individual Assistance programs available in Anderson, Bastrop, Caldwell, Callahan, Cooke, Deaf Smith, Eastland, Erath, Gray, Guadalupe, Hood, Hutchinson, Kerr, Roberts, Montague, Parker, Palo Pinto, Potter, Tarrant, Wheeler and Wise counties. Johnson County was added May 17.
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.