HOUSTON — Exactly two weeks ago Texas was thawing out from a deadly winter storm that damaged properties across the state. FEMA has dolled out more than $56 million in emergency aid to more than 18,000 Texans, so far.
“Now one thing I want to be really clear and I want the viewers to understand, is that FEMA is not an insurance company,” said Spokesman Alberto Pillot. “We’re just immediate needs, we’ll help you with quick assistance to get you back to a safe, sanitary and secure home. That is our mission, to get you to that standard.”
Pillot explains that the federal aid can help with three things:
- The cost of emergency home repairs
- Uninsured or under-insured property losses
- The reimbursement of lodging expenses.
“We recommend: always document. Document! Document your losses,” said Pillot because FEMA inspections are happening virtually in the pandemic.
Call your insurance company first. FEMA second.
KHOU 11 News is connecting with neighbors on Nextdoor who have questions for FEMA about the application process.
Helen asks: what about all the food that went bad? “So FEMA can not reimburse you for food loss.”
Nina asks, is FEMA help only for people who had busted pipes? “No,” answered Pillot. “So it’s not only for busted pipes, it can be for other things.”
Kristhal asks: pipe busted outside the home. Is it covered by FEMA? “That is a very good question. Because if the outside pipe that broke affects the inhabitability of your home, call your insurance first then apply with FEMA for any under-insured losses.”
Alice writes: FEMA is telling you to apply to SBA loans first if your homeowner’s insurance deductible is more than your expenses. But I refuse to add any more debt. “So FEMA does not cover insurance deductibles,” said Pillot. If you were referred to the SBA disaster loan program, SBA may be able to assist you with a low-interest disaster loan.”
Pillot explains that FEMA helps with short-term recovery needs and the Small Business Association, or SBA, helps with long-term recovery.
When you apply for FEMA help… go over that application with a fine tooth comb. Any error could result in a denial. But remember, “You can always appeal that decision.”
Lone Star Legal Aid has created a one-page document to help residents understand what to expect from FEMA. Click here for more information. You can also call their Disaster Legal Assistance Hotline at 1-800-504-7030.
If you sustained damage and have insurance on your property, contact your insurance company before applying for aid from the federal government (FEMA, Small Business Administration, etc.) FEMA requires this of all insured residents before they will consider assistance.
Help with basic needs such as food, clothing and housing is available from a variety of local organizations. Simply call 2-1-1 and operators will work to connect you with services to help meet your immediate needs.
• If you are unable to work because of damage sustained from the winter storm, you may be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance. You must apply by March 26, 2021. Learn more and apply at the Texas Workforce Commission.
• SNAP recipients are eligible for assistance if their food was lost or destroyed due to the storm. Click here for more information.
Other resources are listed on the Winter Weather Recovery Resources page at ReadyHarris.org. This page is updated often as new resources become available.
All four Harris County Precincts have established a debris removal process. See the graphic below for information on locations and schedules.