CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. -- State and federal disaster assistance payments are bringing needed financial help to homeowners, renters and business owners in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, and Erie counties affected by the August 8-10, 2009 severe storms and flooding. However, those payments come with some words of advice from disaster officials: Be cautious, use them wisely.
Officials from the New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offer the following tips to help western New Yorkers get the most out of their personal disaster recovery payment:
- If a check is received, deposit it as soon as possible.
- • Cash and carry large sums of money.
- • Deal with strangers offering check cashing or deposit services.
- Use the money for the intended disaster-related assistance.
- Be tempted to pay household bills.
- Make purchases unrelated to needs created by the disaster.
- Use the funds for travel.
- Select a repair company with caution. If a disaster assistance payment is for home repairs, it is only for those repairs that will make the house habitable. This includes fixing windows, doors, plumbing, ventilation, electrical systems and minor structural damage.
- Arrange for repair work without a written statement of work to be completed.
- Use a repair service without seeking a recommendation.
- Pay the repairperson up front.
A word of caution: These funds help residents to meet basic disaster-related needs. If the applicant spends the money on anything other than the intended purpose, no additional assistance may be granted if the need arises in the future.
Federal grant recipients are urged to keep receipts of their disaster spending and stay in touch with FEMA through the Helpline if their situation changes. The number is 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585.