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Spend FEMA Grants Wisely

Release date: 
July 9, 2019
Release Number: 

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Some Arkansans may have received federal assistance grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Disaster recovery officials urge recipients of those grants to use the money wisely and only for disaster-related expenses.

When a grant is awarded, FEMA sends a disaster assistance determination letter listing approved uses including:

• Home repairs (e.g., structure, water, septic and sewage systems)

• Rental assistance for a different place to live temporarily

• Repair or replacement of a flooded essential vehicle

• Medical care for an injury caused by the disaster

• Repair, cleaning or replacement of clothing, specialized tools

• Necessary educational materials (e.g., computers, school books, supplies)

• Moving and storage expenses related to the disaster

• Other disaster-related expenses

Recipients may spend their FEMA Housing Assistance grant to achieve the goal of permanent, safe, sanitary and functional housing. FEMA does not pay to return a home to its pre-disaster condition.

Rental assistance grants are provided for temporary housing when a disaster leaves a home uninhabitable or inaccessible.

• Homeowners or renters can choose to rent an apartment, house, mobile home or some other temporary rental unit. If insurance does not cover Additional Living Expenses (ALE) send in your insurance denial or policy stating ALE is not included.

• Those who intend to seek continued rental assistance need receipts to show they used the grant for rent.

Disaster grants should not be used for travel, entertainment, regular living expenses or any discretionary expenses not related to the disaster.

It’s also important to remember that federal law prohibits duplicating federal grants from other sources. In other words, if a disaster-related loss is covered by another source, such as insurance, or is taken care of by a volunteer group, donation or gift, FEMA cannot pay for that cost again.

FEMA encourages recipients to keep their receipts for three years to show how the funds were spent. After every major disaster, FEMA conducts audits of disaster assistance payments to ensure that taxpayer dollars were properly provided by the agency and appropriately used by recipients.

Applicants who have trouble understanding their FEMA disaster assistance determination letter should contact FEMA by calling 800-621-3362 (voice, 711/VRS-Video Relay Service) (TTY: 800-462-7585). Multilingual operators are available (press 2 for Spanish).

In addition, applicants can visit a state-federal Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). Visit for center locations and times.

Last Updated: 
July 12, 2019 - 17:33