Spending FEMA Grants Wisely

Release Date Release Number
NR DR-4438-OK 025
Release Date:
July 1, 2019

Oklahoma City, OK — More than $11.9 million in federal assistance grants have been approved by FEMA to help survivors of the severe storms, straight-line winds, tornadoes and flooding that occurred in Oklahoma between May 7 and June 9, 2019.

While assistance is tax free and grants don’t have to be repaid, FEMA urges survivors to use the funds quickly, 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.

  • Rental assistance grants are provided for temporary housing when a disaster leaves a home uninhabitable or inaccessible.
  • FEMA does not pay to return a home to its pre-disaster condition.
  • Homeowners or renters can choose to rent an apartment, house, mobile home or some other temporary rental unit.
  • 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). The locations of DRCs in Oklahoma can be found at fema.gov/ESF6/DRCLocator.

Find out more at https://www.fema.gov/okmit and https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4438. Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/femaregion6 and the FEMA Blog at http://blog.fema.gov.

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FEMA's mission is to help before, during and after disasters.

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 800-462-7585.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 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 non-profit organizations, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. These disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations. For more information, applicants may contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling 800-659-2955, emailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov, or visiting SBA’s website at SBA.gov/disaster. Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call 800-877-8339.

Last updated March 18, 2021