BATON ROUGE, La. – “What can I purchase with disaster assistance money?” That question is being asked by many Louisiana Hurricane Isaac survivors who have received grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
A vast majority of the grants FEMA is providing to Louisianians are for emergency home repairs or replacement. Recipients may spend these grants in any way that helps them achieve the goal of permanent safe, sanitary and functional housing. Instead of spending the money to improve the habitability of their damaged homes, some recipients may choose to apply the funds to purchasing other housing.
“Survivors do have some choices in how they use housing assistance, as long as they understand they must stay within the guidelines,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Mike Hall of FEMA. “With things in turmoil after the hurricane, we want to get folks into safe housing as soon as possible.”
FEMA also provides grants for temporary housing and other needs.
Grants for temporary housing must be spent on rental of alternative housing when the disaster rendered the person’s pre-disaster housing uninhabitable. This assistance can be for homeowners or for renters. It is always temporary until the person can get back into long-term housing, which can be either the repaired pre-disaster home or another home. These grants may not be spent on home repairs, personal property or any other items.
FEMA and the state approve Other Needs Assistance grants for a wide variety of losses caused by the disaster. Some examples are a self-employed person’s lost tools, a student’s lost educational materials, furniture, vehicle damage, cleanup, moving and storage, medical and dental expenses, or funeral and burial costs.
Everyone who receives a FEMA grant should save receipts for three years in case they are audited. If specific receipts are missing, a credit card statement or other evidence should be sufficient to show the grant was spent to help with recovery from the hurricane. As with many other federal programs, the government audits a percentage of grants to assure the money was spent as intended.
Survivors can register online at www.disasterassistance.gov or via smartphone at m.fema.gov. They may also call 1-800-621-3362 or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585. Those who use 711 Relay or Video Relay Services may call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
FEMA’s temporary housing assistance and grants for medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for a Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan. However, applicants who receive an SBA loan application, should complete and submit their application. If SBA cannot approve your application, in most cases the SBA will refer you back to FEMA for Other Needs Assistance and for possible additional assistance.
SBA offers federal low-interest disaster loans to residents and businesses. After registering with FEMA, visit any Disaster Recovery Center where SBA representatives will answer questions, explain the application process and help each resident or business owner apply to SBA. For SBA information or to apply online, visit www.sba.gov or call 1-800-659-2955. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing may call 1-800-877-8339.
For more information on Louisiana disaster recovery, click www.fema.gov/disaster/4080 or www.gohsep.la.gov. You can follow FEMA on Twitter at www.twitter.com/femaregion6 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FEMA. Also visit our blog at www.fema.gov/blog.