Advice from FEMA Officials: Use Disaster Assistance Grants Wisely
NASHVILLE – Disaster recovery officials urge Tennessee recipients who were affected by recent storms and flooding and are recipients of federal grants in the disaster-designated counties to use the money wisely.
“If the grant assistance is used properly, it doesn’t have to be paid back and eligibility for further help is possible,” said Gracia B. Szczech, Federal Emergency Management Agency Federal Coordinating Officer in charge of the recovery efforts.
Most funds are deposited electronically and a letter follows in the mail to explain how the money is to be used. If the grant is in the form of a check, it should be deposited promptly and not cashed.
• Use the funds to pay household bills.
• Use the funds to make purchases unrelated to needs created by the disaster.
• Use the funds to travel.
Housing funds may be used for:
* Repairs to return a home to a safe and functional condition. This may include repairs to windows, doors, water and ventilation systems, or other structural parts of a home.
* Reimbursement for lodging expenses directly related to the disaster. Receipts for these expenses will be requested if the home sustained damages.
* Rental assistance. Applicants who must remain in temporary housing for a longer period than the initial assistance covers may request more assistance until their home can be occupied or other permanent housing arrangements can be made. They must also turn in proper receipts to receive further assistance.
Recipients of Other Needs Assistance may use the funds for:
* Personal property, specialized tools for employment, household items, appliances and vehicle repair or replacement.
* Medical, dental, funeral and moving expenses.
* Grant recipients are required to sign a declaration and a release certifying all funds will be spent on the expenses for which they are intended.
Grants are subject to an audit. Recipients are strongly encouraged to fully document their disaster-related expenses. They must keep receipts or bills for three years to demonstrate how all of the money was used in meeting disaster-related needs.
It is important to note that grants are tax free and are not a loan. They do not have to be repaid. They are not counted as income for welfare or other federal benefit programs and they cannot be garnished.
By law, FEMA grants, which are taxpayer dollars, cannot duplicate payments from other sources. For example, if a grant recipient receives an insurance settlement covering expenses already paid for by FEMA, those duplicated funds must be reimbursed to FEMA.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
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.