LAREDO, Texas -- To err is human — especially during the stressful time following a disaster. But making a mistake during the registration process and not correcting it could prove costly on more than one level.
The Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) remind disaster aid applicants they should provide honest, accurate information when they register. Failure to do so could bring unwanted consequences.
"The last thing a disaster survivor needs is to become the subject of a fraud inquiry," said State Coordinating Officer Ben Patterson. "We urge Texans to double check their registration information and make any needed corrections."
"During the stress of a disaster, people may not accurately report their damage or loss," said Federal Coordinating Officer Brad Harris. "Just be honest and candid during registration. Most importantly, if you make a mistake, correct it as soon as possible."
All disaster funds received by survivors must be used for disaster recovery. Auditors use a variety of methods to cross-check data from FEMA, the state, partner agencies and insurance companies. Additionally, FEMA inspectors check applicants' homes to verify claimed damage and loss.
Survivors who use their funds improperly may find their cases referred to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). That office may then refer the cases to the U. S. Department of Justice.
Those wishing to correct an error after submitting a claim can contact FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585. The lines are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (CDT) daily.
Anyone with knowledge of fraud, waste or abuse involving FEMA contracts, programs or personnel may call the FEMA OIG Fraud Hotline at 1-800-323-8603. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You may also send an e-mail to DHSOIGHotline@dhs.gov.
For more information on the Hurricane Alex disaster recovery, browse the features on this FEMA website 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.
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.