PAGO PAGO, AS -- To date, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has released $9.5 million in disaster grants for people affected by the earthquake, tsunami and flood that hit the island on Sept. 29, 2009. Upon distribution of funds, every recipient receives a letter that provides important information about the grant and outlines how the money should be spent. People receiving financial assistance through a disaster grant are advised to use their money wisely.
It is important to note that grants are tax free and are not a loan. They do not have to be repaid. They are not counted as income for welfare or other federal benefit programs and they cannot be garnished.
Grants must be used as intended.
Housing funds may be used for:
- Repairs to return the home to a safe and functional condition: These may include repairs to windows, doors, water and ventilation systems, or other structural parts of a home;
- Reimbursement for lodging expenses directly related to the disaster: Receipts for these expenses will be requested if the home sustained damages;
- Rental assistance: Applicants who must remain in temporary housing for a longer period than the initial assistance covers may request more assistance until their home can be re-occupied or other permanent housing arrangements can be made;
Other Needs Assistance funds may be used for:
- Personal property, specialized tools for employment, household items, appliances, and vehicle repair or replacement;
- Medical, dental and funeral expense;
- Moving expenses and other disaster-related needs.
All expenditures must be disaster-related. If the grant money is not used as outlined in the letter, a recipient may have to pay it back and may lose eligibility for any further help.
Grants may be subject to an audit. Each recipient is responsible for spending the money as intended. Recipients are strongly encouraged to fully document their disaster-related expenses. They must keep receipts or bills for three years to demonstrate how all of the money was used in meeting disaster-related needs.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.