NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Federal disaster assistance payments are bringing needed financial help to homeowners, renters and business owners in 26 Tennessee counties who suffered damage in the recent severe storms, tornadoes and flooding.
But state and federal officials have words of caution about these much-needed payments: be cautious, use the funds wisely -- and only for their intended purpose.
"Many people have great needs and the money they receive may not cover all expenses," said Tennessee Emergency Management Director Jim Bassham. "If you spend money on things not authorized in your FEMA letter, additional assistance may not be available."
Flood and tornado survivors should only use these grants to meet specific disaster-related needs.
Housing Assistance grants are intended for one of three uses only: for basic housing repairs, short-term rental assistance, or reimbursement of hotel/motel expenses.
Other Needs Assistance grants are intended to help replace essential personal property and meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable-aid programs.
Most funds are deposited electronically, then a letter explaining what the funds are to be used for follows in the mail.
"All expenditures must be disaster-related," said Federal Coordinating Officer W. Montague Winfield. "If 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," he said.
Grants are subject to an audit, so recipients should fully document disaster-related expenses; keep receipts or bills for three years to show how all the money was used in meeting the disaster-related needs.
The first step for individuals and businesses toward obtaining recovery assistance is to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency:
- By phone, call 800-621-FEMA (3362) from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time. Assistance is available in many languages. Those who are deaf, hard of hearing or who have a speech disability may use TTY 800-462-7585.
- By computer, go online to www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
- By smartphone or tablet, use m.fema.gov.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.
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.
FEMA's housing assistance and Other Needs Assistance grants for medical, dental, and funeral expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA loan officers to be considered for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses. Applicants who do not qualify for a SBA loan may be eligible to receive Other Needs Assistance grants for these items.