Six Texas Counties have received a Presidential Disaster Declaration as of Friday, October 5, 2019, resulting from Tropical Storm Imelda. According to the National Weather Service, Imelda was one of the wettest cyclones in U.S. history, leaving over 800 homes damaged. The counties now eligible for FEMA and SBA assistance are Chambers, Harris, Jefferson, Liberty, Montgomery, and Orange.

What can FEMA do for you?

  • FEMA can help you with temporary housing. FEMA can help you with your hotel bill. In some cases, FEMA will pay the hotel bill for you. You can check a list of these hotels at www.femaevachotels.com. If your hotel is not a participating hotel, save your hotel bill to request FEMA reimbursement after paying.
  • FEMA can also help you with at least one month’s rent in a new place if your home was damaged by a disaster.
  • FEMA can help you repair your house if you own your home. FEMA can provide homeowners with a limited amount of help to make their residence safe, sanitary and functional. You may need to release ownership of your property if you do not have a deed in your name by the time you register with FEMA.
  • FEMA can help you replace personal belongings. FEMA can give you money to replace personal belongings that were damaged or destroyed during the disaster. Things that FEMA can help you replace include vehicles, furniture, appliances, and other important personal property.
  • FEMA can help you with other expenses caused by a disaster. FEMA can help you with medical expenses, dental expenses, funeral expenses, transportation expenses and other serious needs caused by the disaster. FEMA will not cover these expenses unless you can prove that they were caused by the disaster. You may need your doctor to give you a note that says your medical or dental expenses were caused by the disaster. You may also have to provide receipts for any other expenses caused by a disaster.
  • FEMA can help you even if you have insurance. FEMA can help you with needs that are not covered by your insurance or give you money while waiting for the insurance money. You may have to give FEMA a copy of your insurance policy. FEMA will not cover your insurance deductible. You must reimburse FEMA after receiving your insurance money.
  • You can apply for FEMA assistance by calling or going online at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or http://www.fema.gov or m.fema.gov for smartphones.

Important:

  • Consider submitting an application for FEMA even if you don’t think you need it at that time. This can help document your damage if you need FEMA’s help later.
  • Save all the papers you receive from FEMA.
  • Save receipts that show how you spend the money FEMA gives you. Keep these receipts for three years.
  • When FEMA gives you money, they will tell you how to use it.
  • Only use FEMA money for the things that FEMA tells you to spend.
  • Apply for other benefits when they become available.
  • Be sure to claim the total value of your damaged home or property, even if it exceeds the limits of the FEMA or insurance.

If FEMA assistance is not offered to you, there is another option made available by the disaster declaration. Survivors can also apply for disaster assistance loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

The SBA has low-interest disaster loans. You don’t have to own a business.

  • If you are a renter or homeowner, you may be able to borrow money to repair or replace items damaged or destroyed in the disaster. Homeowners may apply for money to repair or replace their homes. You may be able to get a loan to make your home more disaster-proof.

You usually have 60 days after the disaster to apply. The SBA may extend this date. You must apply by the deadline or you lose your chance to apply.

  • The first step is to apply to FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 or www.disasterassistance.gov.
    • Some FEMA benefits are only possible after you apply to the SBA.
    • If FEMA refers you to the SBA to apply for a loan, you must at least apply for the SBA loan. You should apply even if you have bad credit.
    • If FEMA refers you for an SBA loan and you do not apply for one, you may not be able to get FEMA help later.
    • Apply for FEMA benefits. Then apply for SBA benefits if FEMA refers to you so you can get all the help you need to recover.
  • You can apply for an SBA loan online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov. You can also apply in person at a FEMA Disaster Resource Center, by phone or by mail.
    • Do not miss the filing deadline by waiting for an insurance settlement.
    • SBA can give a loan for repairs while you wait for your insurance to pay.
    • Once your insurance pays, you must repay your SBA loan that covered the repair or replacement costs.
    • SBA cannot give money for damages that your insurance company already covers.

The SBA offers loans with long-term repayments, in many cases up to 30 years.

  • Apply to FEMA first.
  • Then apply to SBA.
  • Do it within 60 days or the extended deadline. If you do not, you will miss your chance for an SBA loan.

If you are in need of legal help for Tropical Storm Imelda, you can apply online, call 1-866-659-0666, or visit one of our offices in person. You can find the office that services the county you live in here.

If you would like to provide legal help to Tropical Storm Imelda survivors, you can view volunteer opportunities here.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org.