With President Joe Biden’s declaration that last week’s winter storm was a major disaster, Galveston County homeowners and renters can apply for individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help cover damage and other expenses.
Residents can apply online at www.disasterassistance.gov or call toll-free at 800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585).
A phone call is best for residents who don’t speak English or who otherwise need assistance with their applications, said Joe Compian, a La Marque city councilman. The application process takes about 20 minutes, he said.
Anyone applying for aid should have readily available a current phone number, the address where the damage occurred, a current address, Social Security number and a general list of damages and losses. Insured residents must provide policy numbers or agent/company names.
Uninsured, underinsured and fully insured residents can apply, but insured applicants must file claims with their insurance companies. By law, FEMA cannot duplicate benefits for losses covered by insurance. If insurance doesn’t cover all the damage, applicants might be eligible for federal assistance.
Disaster aid might include financial assistance for temporary lodging, home repairs, low-interest loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs that help people and business owners recover from disasters.
It’s important that locals be clear and specific about the help they want, Compian said.
“Don’t be shy about expressing what you need,” Compian said. “If you have a need, address it.”
FEMA recommends residents take photos of any damage incurred before cleaning up and starting repairs.
FEMA has provided 69 generators, 10,000 gallons of winterized diesel and 10,000 gallons of gasoline, 845,350 gallons of water, more than 126,900 wool blankets, 50,000 cotton blankets and more than 226,000 meals for the state of Texas as of Feb. 21, according to the agency.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, recipients to apply for replacement benefits for food ruined by the severe winter weather.
FEMA will not reimburse food lost because of the power outages but potentially could refund residents for money they spent on hotels, Compian said, adding it’s important to keep the receipts for FEMA.
Residents should keep receipts of repairs as evidence of damage, said Lynda Perez, director of Galveston County Long Term Recovery Group and the Mainland Community Partnership.
Galveston County residents who want to apply for FEMA in person can go to the recovery group at 2000 Texas Ave. Suite 601 in Texas City.
The recovery center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday by appointment only, Perez said. But staff members are willing to sometimes stay later to assist residents who work within the center’s hours, she added. Local residents can call 409-643-8240 to reach the center.
After applying, residents must be ready to respond to calls from numbers they don’t recognize and keep their phones charged and unmuted to be ready for correspondence from FEMA, Perez said.
Residents who need help coping with the stress of the winter storm can call or text 1-800-985-5990 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. The distress helpline is toll-free, multilingual and confidential.