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Survivors Are Urged to Spend Disaster Grants Properly

Release date: 
May 9, 2019
Release Number: 
R7-DR-4421 IA NR 023

DES MOINES, Iowa – State and federal disaster recovery officials want to remind survivors who may have received FEMA disaster funds that it’s important to use the money for the intended purpose and not for other recovery expenditures.

So how do you know what that purpose is? FEMA will help by sending a determination letter telling you what the money is being awarded for and listing the ways the money can be used. Some examples include:

  • Home repairs (e.g., structure, water, septic and sewage systems)
  • Rental assistance for rent and/or deposit
  • Repair or replacement of a flooded essential vehicle
  • Medical or dental care for an uninsured injury caused by the disaster
  • Repair of occupational specialized tools
  • Necessary educational materials (e.g., computers, school books, supplies)
  • Moving and storage expenses related to the disaster
  • Increased child care expenses

Disaster assistance is not for regular living expenses.

It’s important to read the determination letter carefully. If a survivor has spent the payment on anything other than its intended purpose, he or she may be denied disaster assistance in the future. In some cases, FEMA will ask that the money be returned. Receipts for all expenses are required and should be retained for at least three years because disaster funding may be subject to audit.

For any questions, call the FEMA Helpline, 800-621-3362 (voice/711/video relay service) from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CDT, seven days a week until further notice. TTY users can call 800-462-7585. You can also visit a Disaster Recovery Center. To locate the closest center, call the Helpline, visit FEMA or use your smartphone to check on this site:

Lastly, it’s important for applicants to make sure that FEMA has their most up-to-date contact information, including addresses, phone numbers and bank accounts. If FEMA does not have the correct contact information, survivors may miss letters or phone calls about their application for assistance or payment status.

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 faced discrimination, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-3362, voice/711/video relay service. Multilingual operators are available. TTY users may call 800-462-7585.


FEMA's mission is helping people before, during, and after disasters.

HSEMD Mission: To lead, coordinate and support homeland security and emergency management functions in order to establish sustainable communities and ensure economic opportunities for Iowa and its citizens.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps businesses of all sizes, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. For more information, applicants may contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955. TTY users may also call 800-877-8339. Applicants may also email or visit SBA at .

Last Updated: 
May 9, 2019 - 17:23