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Using FEMA Grants Wisely

Release date: 
September 4, 2012
Release Number: 

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- “Are there restrictions regarding how I can spend the FEMA grant money?” That question is being asked by many Creek County residents impacted by the Aug. 3-14 wildfire in Creek County who have received more than $3.6 million in recovery grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“We are appreciative that Creek County residents are receiving assistance so quickly, with many qualifying for maximum amount of assistance available,” said State Coordinating Officer and Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) Deputy Director Michelann Ooten.

“In the information packet we send to eligible survivors, FEMA provides guidelines on how to use the money,” said Federal Coordinating Officer William J. Doran III. “When receiving a lump sum of money, it is important to use it for its intended purposes.”

FEMA grants under the Individual and Household Program include money for temporary housing, home repair or replacement, and other disaster-related needs. Individuals with uninsured, disaster-related damage to home or personal property may receive up to, but not exceed, the maximum grant amount of $31,400.

Temporary housing grants allow both homeowners and renters whose homes were made uninhabitable due to the fire to lease a dwelling for a limited period of time while they rebuild. Survivors can choose to rent an apartment or a home.

Survivors receiving temporary housing grants will successfully manage the money when they:

  • Use it for rent and not for home repairs, personal property or other items.
  • Save receipts, as these will be required if a survivor wishes to request additional rental assistance.

Housing repair or replacement grants help eligible homeowners get back into a safe, sanitary and functional home. A grant can be used to purchase a new home, make a down payment on a home, and purchase materials or to hire contractors or skilled trade workers to complete essential repairs in such areas as:

  • Septic or sewage system
  • Well or other water system
  • Heating, ventilating and air conditioning system
  • Utilities – electrical, plumbing, and gas systems
  • Foundation, outside walls or roof
  • Windows, doors, floors, walls, ceilings and cabinetry
  • Blocking, leveling, and anchoring a mobile home and reconnecting or resetting its sewer, water, electrical, fuel lines and tanks

Other Needs Assistance grants are given to eligible homeowners and renters for a wide variety of losses, including self-employed workers’ lost tools or protective gear, students’ damaged educational materials, household items, furniture, appliances, fuel to heat a home, vehicle damage, clean-up tools such as a wet/dry vacuum or air purifiers, moving and storage expenses or medical and dental expenses caused by the disaster, including lost medications or medical equipment.

Those who were impacted by the Creek County fire can preserve peace of mind by spending the money on disaster recovery, keeping good records of their spending and saving receipts for three years. If specific receipts are missing, a credit card statement or other evidence can show the grant money was spent on wildfire recovery. As with many other federal programs, the government audits a percentage of grants to assure the money was spent as intended.

Anyone who has doubts about how to spend a FEMA grant may call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 or TTY 1-800-462-7585. Those who use 711 Relay or Video Relay Services can call 1-800-621-3362. Recovery assistants are available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week; multilingual operators are available.

In addition, homeowners, renters, business owners and most private nonprofit organizations (PNPs) may be eligible for low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to help them recover from losses not covered by insurance, grants or other sources.

SBA’s low-interest disaster loans are available to homeowners, renters, businesses and PNPs for their uncompensated physical disaster losses (homes, personal property and business assets).  For small businesses and most private nonprofits, SBA disaster loans are available to cover working capital needs caused by the disaster, whether or not the business suffered physical damage.

It is important that anyone receiving an SBA low-interest loan application complete and return it. Returning the application does not obligate you to accept an SBA loan; however, it is a necessary step to be considered for other additional forms of federal disaster assistance.

There are three easy ways for homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and nonprofit organizations to register for FEMA’s disaster assistance or check the status of a registration. They include registering online at, using web-enabled phones at or the FEMA app, or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585. If using 711 Relay or Video Relay Services (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. FEMA phone lines are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT seven days a week; multilingual operators are available.

To apply for an SBA disaster loan:  After registering with FEMA, go online to SBA’s secure site at; call 1-800-659-2955 or TTY 1-800-877-7339; or visit a Disaster Recovery Center or Mobile Disaster Recovery Center.  For more information on SBA, go to

For more information on Oklahoma disaster recovery, click on or

Follow OEM on Twitter and Facebook at and FEMA tweets about the Oklahoma disaster are at Additional FEMA online resources include, and

Last Updated: 
November 7, 2012 - 13:33
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