Survivors' Disaster Recovery Grants Come With Responsibilities

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Release date: 
August 24, 2011
Release Number: 

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Almost $70 million in state and federal disaster recovery grants are helping Alabamians pick up the pieces from the April tornadoes. Homeowners and renters don’t have to repay the tax-free assistance, but they must take care to spend the money only on disaster-related expenses.

“If you’ve been seriously affected by this disaster, you probably have a long list of financial needs,” said Jeff Byard, state coordinating officer for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. “It’s tempting to use the assistance money to pay your most pressing bills, but stop and think before you spend that money on anything that’s not disaster-related.”

Alabamians received their assistance checks either by mail or through direct deposit to their banks. Each person who received a payment also received a letter listing the types of expenses for which the payment can be used.

“Survivors should keep receipts or bills for three years to demonstrate how all the money was used for disaster-related expenses,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Byrne of FEMA.

Housing assistance grants can be used only for short-term rental assistance, reimbursement for hotel/motel rooms and home repair.

Other needs assistance grants can be used 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.

Disaster assistance grants are not counted as income for welfare or other federal benefit programs and they cannot be garnished.

If you have questions about how your disaster assistance funds may be used, call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362). If you have a speech disability or hearing loss and use a TTY, call 800-462-7585 directly; if you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 800-621-3362. Phone lines are available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time. The FEMA website,, is available anytime.

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.

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

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Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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