OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- Disaster assistance grants are bringing some vital financial help to many Oklahomans rebuilding their lives after the May 10-13 storms and tornadoes. But those Individual Assistance monies come with some advice from state and federal officials: Play it smart with the funds.
If you follow these four steps, you will be handling the grant correctly and spending the money wisely, say experts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM):
- Know where to find the grant payment. The grant money from the U.S. Department of Treasury will appear as a direct deposit to an applicant's bank account or arrive as a check by mail at the address specified on the aid application.
- Expect a letter from FEMA detailing the grant terms. Arriving soon after payment is received, the letter will explain what the money is intended for. It is important that the money is used only for its intended purpose. Applicants who don't receive the letter or who don't understand the grant's purpose can get help. Call FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for people with hearing and speech impairments, or discuss the grant with a specialist at a Disaster Recovery Center.
- Spend the money on disaster recovery purposes only. Most FEMA disaster recovery grants to individuals are given for two purposes: to make minimal temporary repairs on a damaged house and/or to help with the cost of renting a place to live temporarily. Resist temptations to spend the money on household bills or make purchases unrelated to the storm damage. If the disaster assistance grant is for home repairs, it is only for those repairs that will make a home habitable. These include fixing windows, doors, plumbing, ventilation, electrical systems and minor structural damage. Before you begin making repairs, be sure to check with local authorities to see if permits are required.
- Keep receipts of disaster spending for three years. Be prepared to prove the grant money was spent to meet disaster-related needs. FEMA conducts random audits to confirm its grant payments were spent properly. Should an audit occur, those receipts will offer protection.
For more information on Oklahoma disaster recovery, browse the features on this FEMA Web site at www.fema.gov/Oklahoma or visit the OEM website at www.oem.ok.gov or follow on www.twitter.com/okem. Users of smart phones and other mobile devices can visit m.fema.gov.
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.