HOUSTON – With the winter storm over, the work has just begun. Hundreds and thousands of us are now looking for help. FEMA’s disaster assistance website for our winter storm is already active.
We are answering your top questions about FEMA.
Is FEMA help available for renters too?
Yes, help is available for homeowners and renters who have damaged personal belongings.
“If you’ve got five or six figures worth of damage to your home, we can’t cover that, but we can help,” said Kurt Pickering, FEMA Public Affairs Specialist.”You will be referred over to the small business administration.”
Renters can get assistance for things like lodging and personal belongings that are damaged.
There are other options besides a FEMA grant. The Small Business Administration side of the Government dole out is a low-interest loan. The FEMA financial assistance is a grant you don’t have to pay it back.
What do you need before applying for FEMA?
When you are applying for FEMA help you need to have your social security number, annual household income, contact information, insurance information (if you have it), and bank account information. The bank account information is for the direct deposit if you do get money. We should note, there are scams out there already so if any place ever asks for money upfront related to FEMA claims that is a scam.
Depending on your request, you may have to wait. Kurt said if you don’t hear back from FEMA in one week, you should call them back and make sure they have everything in order.
Christine Tremonte said she is still waiting for FEMA assistance money after filing for assistance after Hurricane Harvey. More than three years ago her home in Northwest Harris County flooded. She applied for FEMA funds through a local assistance program. This is a slightly different process than people are doing right now for the funds related to the recent freeze. But, Christine says she has had trouble getting her money and answers.
“They just asked me for my 2019 tax return for the flood that happened in 2017,” Christine said.
Her advice for anyone applying for assistance now:
“Document everything everybody you talked to get their name, phone number, email address, the agency they work for,” she said.
Christine’s tale should not discourage you from applying for FEMA assistance. Just know there are a few requirements before they can get the process started. You will need to take photos and submit paperwork before you get approved for money.
Can you file for FEMA if you have insurance?
Fema says if the damage is covered by an insurance claim, you cannot seek federal dollars for the same repair. FEMA money for this freeze is more for immediate needs.
“FEMA’S role is not to put everything back the way it was. FEMA’s role is to get you through disaster for the short term so you are on your way to recovery,” Pickering said.
He does advise people to call 2-1-1 and their insurance before contacting FEMA.
“Texas is a 2-1-1 state,” Pickering explains. “You can get a lot of information in services, both in peacetime in disaster recovery that may be available. Because it’s closer it may be faster. Talk to your insurance first, your adjuster or agent, and then go through 2-1-1 to see if you have any other needs see if they can fulfill them - the next step would be to register through FEMA.”
There are about $60 billion dollars of damage across Texas related to this latest freeze. The pool available to Texans via FEMA is not yet perfectly clear. You can expect the low end of four digits as the maximum payouts for households. Click here for the link to FEMA’s site to register.