CLINTON, Miss. -- With sizable disaster assistance checks being distributed to storm victims in Bolivar, Warren, Washington and Wilkinson Counties, state and federal emergency officials are urging recipients to handle the money carefully and spend it only for disaster-related losses.
"This is a time when people are particularly vulnerable, and predators are quick to take advantage of them," said MEMA Director Mike Womack. "Caution is the operative word."
Experience shows that disposition of assistance checks inevitably causes problems for some survivors in every disaster. If FEMA funds are not electronically transferred, checks should be deposited in the applicant's bank account as soon as possible. Applicants should never carry large sums of cash.
"FEMA grant money is intended to help you get safe, sanitary and functional housing and meet your other critical needs so that you can begin your long-term recovery," said Michael L. Parker, FEMA's federal coordinating officer. "It is important to remember that disaster grant money is intended for that use and that use only."
If applicants have questions regarding their use of disaster aid, they should call FEMA's Help Desk at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). The hearing or speech impaired should call TTY 1-800-462-7585.
Before starting any repairs or reconstruction, it is necessary to check with local building officials to determine what permits and inspections may be required. Obtaining building permits is especially important for those with homes or businesses located within a FEMA-mapped floodplain.
The permit process ensures that homeowners are protected from unsafe building practices and illegal modifications that could cause potential injury, loss in property value, damage the local environment or conflict with local codes and regulations. Permits required by law may keep homeowners from unpleasant surprises when buying insurance, filing a claim or selling the property in the future.
Also, file any insurance claims as soon as possible, remembering that if you receive money from insurance or another source for disaster losses that duplicates money from FEMA, you may be required to return all or part of the money received from FEMA.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.