Tennesseans advised to use disaster grants wisely
Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2011 8:01 pm
NASHVILLE — Federal disaster assistance payments are bringing needed financial help to homeowners, renters and business owners who suffered damages in April’s severe storms, tornadoes and flooding.
But these much-needed payments come with some words of caution from officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency: Be cautious, use the funds wisely — and only for their intended purpose.
“Many people have great needs and the money they receive may not cover all they would like,” said Tennessee Emergency Management director Jim Bassham. “But if you spend money on anything other than what your FEMA letter tells you, additional assistance may not be available.”
Flood and tornado survivors should only use these grants to meet specific disaster-related needs.
Housing Assistance grants are intended for one of three uses only: for basic housing repairs, short-term rental assistance or reimbursement of hotel/motel expenses.
Other Needs Assistance grants are intended to help replace essential personal property and meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable-aid programs.
Most funds are deposited electronically, then a letter explaining what the funds are to be used for follows in the mail.
“All expenditures must be disaster-related,” said federal coordinating officer W. Montague Winfield. “If grant money is not used as outlined in the letter, a recipient may have to pay it back and may lose eligibility for any further help,” he said.
Grants are subject to an audit, so recipients should fully document disaster-related expenses; keep receipts or bills for three years to demonstrate how all of the money was used in meeting and disaster-related needs.
The first step for individuals and businesses toward obtaining recovery assistance is to register with FEMA:
• By phone, call 800-621-FEMA (3362) from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Assistance is available in many languages. Those who are deaf, hard of hearing or who have a speech disability may use TTY 800-462-7585.
• By computer, go online to www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
• By smartphone or tablet, use m.fema.gov.
On May 1, a presidential disaster declaration made federal assistance available to eligible individuals in Bledsoe, Bradley, Cocke, Greene, Hamilton, Johnson, McMinn, Monroe, Rhea and Washington counties for help with losses caused by severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and associated flooding from April 25 to April 28, 2011.
Subsequently, on May 9, a presidential disaster declaration made federal funding available to eligible individuals in Obion, Dyer, Lake, Shelby and Stewart counties for help with losses caused by tornadoes, severe weather storms, straight-line winds and flooding beginning on April 19, 2011, and continuing.
Published in The Messenger 5.26.11