FEMA urges survivors to spend funding for approved uses

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – After providing over $2.8 million in tax free federal assistance grants to help those affected by Kentucky’s severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides between Feb. 27 and March 14, 2021, FEMA implores survivors to use their funds quickly, wisely, and only for disaster-related expenses.

When FEMA awards a grant, a disaster assistance determination letter is sent out which lists approved uses. These include:

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  • home repairs (e.g., structure, water, septic and sewage systems)
  • rental assistance for a different place to live temporarily
  • repair or replacement of a flooded essential vehicle
  • medical care for an injury caused by the disaster
  • repair, cleaning or replacement of clothing, specialized tools
  • necessary educational materials (e.g., computers, school books, supplies)
  • moving and storage expenses related to the disaster
  • other disaster-related expenses

FEMA Housing Assistance grant recipients may spend the funds to achieve the goal of permanent, safe, sanitary and functional housing. Rental assistance grants are given for temporary housing when a home has been left uninhabitable or inaccessible by a disaster. FEMA does not pay to return a home to its pre-disaster condition. Homeowners or renters have the option to rent an apartment, house, mobile home or some other temporary rental unit. Those with intentions to seek continued rental assistance need to hold on to receipts in order to show they used the grant for rent.

The grants do not have to be repaid. However, they should be used for these disaster-related purposes and not travel, entertainment, regular living expenses or any discretionary expenses not related to the disaster.

It is also pertinent to know that federal law prohibits duplicating federal grants from other sources. This means that if another source such as insurance covers a disaster-related loss, or that loss is taken care of by a volunteer group, donation or gift, FEMA cannot pay for that cost again.

Recipients are encouraged by FEMA to keep their receipts for three years to demonstrate how the funds were spent. The organization conducts audits after every major disaster of the disaster assistance payments to make sure taxpayer dollars were properly provided by the agency and used appropriately by the recipients.

Those with trouble understanding the disaster assistance letter should contact the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362, operating seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. with multilingual operators available. Relay service users should provide their specific number assigned to that service. It is important for FEMA to be able to contact applicants. It is possible that phone calls from FEMA may come from an unidentified number.

Homeowners and renters affected by the severe storms in Breathitt, Clay, Estill, Floyd, Johnson, Lee, Magoffin, Martin and Powell counties can register for assistance with FEMA by going online at DisasterAssistance.gov, downloading the FEMA app, or calling the FEMA Helpline.