LAREDO, Texas -- Disaster assistance payments are bringing some vital financial help to many Texans rebuilding their lives after Hurricane Alex and the subsequent flooding. 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 handle the grant correctly and spend the money wisely, say experts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM):
1. Know where to find the FEMA payment. The 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.
2. Expect a letter from FEMA detailing the payment terms. Arriving soon after money 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.
3. Spend the money on disaster recovery purposes only. Most FEMA disaster recovery payments awarded 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 that are not related to storm damage. If the disaster assistance money is for home repairs, it is only for those repairs that will make a home livable. 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.
4. Keep receipts of disaster spending for three years. Be prepared to prove the money was spent to meet the needs caused by Hurricane Alex and the subsequent flooding. FEMA provides a verification program to confirm its grant payments were spent properly. In the event of a request for proof, those receipts will offer protection.
For more information on the Hurricane Alex disaster recovery, browse the features on this FEMA Web site at www.fema.gov/hazard/hurricane/2010/alex/index.shtm. Users of smart phones and other mobile devices can visit m.fema.gov. Texans should also visit www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem for more information on this disaster and preparation for future disasters.
The mission of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Texas Department of Public Safety, is to support the citizens of Texas and local jurisdictions as they plan for, respond to, recover from and mitigate the impacts of all hazards, emergencies and disasters. For more information, see: www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem.
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.