Disaster Assistance

Recovery Resources for North Texans

First Steps

  • Before cleaning up, take photos of the damage to your home and belongings
  • Make a list of damaged and lost items and gather any original receipt you may have for those items

Working with your Insurance Company

  • Call your insurance agent or company as soon as possible to report property damage
    • Keep a record of everyone you spoke with at the insurance company
    • Ask about an advance payment if you need help quickly
    • Inquire about living expenses. Some policies will cover some of the costs if you are unable to live in your home because of covered damage
    • Make sure you keep receipts for any costs you pay out-of-pocket costs
  • Visit the Texas Department of Insurance for additional tips when filing your claim

More Help

  • If you are not insured, or if your insurance company denies your claim, you can apply for assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) by visiting their website or calling (800) 621-3362.
  • Remember, FEMA cannot provide for losses covered by insurance, however, if you are not insured or your insurance denies your claim, FEMA may be able to provide:
    • Funds for temporary housing while you are unable to live in your home, such as rental assistance, or reimbursement for hotel costs
    • A temporary housing unit, if approved for the disaster, when you are not able to use rental assistance due to a lack of available housing resources
    • Funds to support the repair or replacement of owner-occupied homes that serve as the household's primary residence, including privately-owned access routes, such as driveways, roads, or bridges
    • Funds for other uninsured or under-insured disaster-caused expenses and serious needs, such as repair or replacement of personal property and vehicles, or funds for moving and storage
    •  
  • When applying, FEMA asks you to have the following information ready: 
    • A current phone number
    • Your address at the time of the disaster and the address where you are staying
    • Your Social Security Number
    • A list of damages and losses
    • If insured, the insurance policy number, or the agent and company name

FEMA recommends taking photos to document the damage and keep all receipts from any clean-up and repairs.

  • Applicants who registered with FEMA IA and were ineligible or have received no decision, will receive notification explaining the eligibility and the reason for that decision. Some common reasons for a no decision or ineligible determination include:
    • The applicant who is insured needs to provide an insurance settlement or denial to be considered for assistance.
    • Additional information is needed from the survivor.
    • The home is safe to occupy, and/or property had minimum or no damage.
    • There were multiple registrations using the same address.

  • It is important to note that FEMA does not provide assistance for energy price spikes or to address utility bills. FEMA also cannot reimburse for food lost due to a power failure. Voluntary organizations in your communities may be able to assist. Residents are encouraged to call 211 for assistance.
  • If you need shelter or emergency food or water, contact the Red Cross at (800)733-2767
  • Complete the Texas Division of Emergency Management Self Reporting Damage Survey or call (844) 844-3089 between 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM to help state officials understand and assess the extent of damages sustained across Texas

Once you have registered for assistance through FEMA you can check the status of your application, or add new information to your application (email, home address, phone number, insurance settlement, additional damage) by visiting disasteraddistance.gov
 
Avoiding Scams

  • Get more than one bid to help decide which offers are too high or too good to be true
  • Check references and phone numbers and call the Better Business Bureau to see if a contractor has complaints
  • Don't pay up front and don’t make your final payment until the job is finished
  • Avoid contractors who offer to waive deductibles or promise a rebate for it, which is illegal under state law
  • Never sign a contract with blank spaces
  • Report possible price gouging to the Office of the Attorney General

Clean Up Safely After a Disaster

Safety Issues

  • Be aware of new safety issues created by the disaster. Watch for washed out roads, contaminated buildings, contaminated water, gas leaks, broken glass, damaged electrical wiring and slippery floors.
  • Walk carefully around the outside and check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
  • Watch out for animals, especially poisonous snakes. Use a stick to poke through debris.
  • Do not enter your damaged home if:
    • You smell gas.
    • Floodwaters remain around the building.
    • Authorities have not declared it safe to enter.
  • Inform local authorities about health and safety issues, including chemical spills, downed power lines, washed out roads, smoldering insulation and dead animals.
  • Keep a battery-powered radio with you for emergency updates from local officials.

Avoid electrical hazards inside or outside your home.

After a hurricane, flood or other natural disaster you need to be careful to avoid electrical hazards both in your home and elsewhere.

  • Shut off electrical power and natural gas or propane tanks in your home to avoid fire, electrocution, or explosions.
  • NEVER touch a fallen power line. Call the power company to report fallen power lines. Avoid contact with overhead power lines during cleanup and other activities.
  • Do not drive through standing water if downed power lines are in the water.
  • If you believe someone has been electrocuted, call or have someone else call 911 or emergency medical help.

For more information, visit: Protect Yourself and Others From Electrical Hazards After a Disaster

Get the right safety gear
  • Hard hats
  • Goggles
  • N95 masks (or a respirator with a higher protection level)
  • Heavy work gloves
  • Waterproof boots with steel toe and insole (not just steel shank)
  • Earplugs or protective headphones (if you’re working with noisy equipment)
  • At least two fire extinguishers (each with a UL rating of at least 10A)
If sewage is involved, make sure to wear the following during your cleanup:
  • Rubber boots
  • Rubber gloves
  • Goggles
Prevent Mold Growth
  • Clean up and dry your home quickly after the storm or flood ends- within 24 to 48 hours if possible.
  • Air out your house by opening doors and windows. Use fans to dry wet areas. Position fans to blow air out doors or windows.
  • Throw away anything that you can’t clean or dry quickly (such as mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings, and paper products).
  • Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters.
  • Thoroughly clean all wet items and surfaces with hot water and laundry or dish detergent. For example, you’ll want to clean any flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures.
  • Fix any leaks in roofs, walls, or plumbing as soon as you can.
Clean up mold with a mix of bleach and water
  • Never use bleach in a closed space. Open windows and doors first.
  • Put on personal protective equipment to protect your eyes, nose, mouth, and skin. Wear goggles, an N-95 respirator, and protective gloves.
  • To make your cleaner, mix 1 cup of household bleach with 1 gallon of water.
  • Clean everything with mold on it.
Preventing Illness From Unsafe Food and Water Post Disaster

Food: Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water; perishable foods that have not been refrigerated properly due to power outages; and those with an unusual odor, color, or texture. Unsafe food can make you sick even if it looks, smells, and tastes normal. When in doubt, throw it out.

Water: Do not use water you suspect or have been told is contaminated to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula. Safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene includes bottled, boiled, or treated water. Your state, local, or tribal health department can make specific recommendations for boiling or treating water in your area.

Do the following with food and containers that may have had contact with flood or storm water.

Throw away the following foods: 

  • Food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Perishable foods (including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) in your refrigerator when the power has been off for 4 hours or more.
  • Food not in packages or cans.
  • Canned foods or food containers that are bulging, opened, or damaged. Throw away the food if the container spurts liquid or foam when you open it or the food inside is discolored, is moldy, or smells bad.
  • Packaged food: Throw away food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps, twist caps, flip tops, and snap-open, and home-canned foods because they cannot be disinfected. Throw away food in cardboard containers, including juice/milk/baby formula boxes.
Clean and sanitize food-contact surfaces that have been flooded

Throw out wooden cutting boards, baby bottle nipples, and pacifiers if they have come into contact with flood waters because they cannot be properly sanitized. Clean and sanitize food-contact surfaces in a four-step process:

  • Wash with soap and hot, clean water.
  • Rinse with clean water.
  • Sanitize by immersing for 1 minute in a solution of 1 cup (8 oz/240 mL) of unscented household chlorine bleach in 5 gallons of clean water.
  • Allow to air dry.

Frequently Asked Questions About Post Storm Recovery

Now that temperatures are rising and my pipes are starting to thaw, what should I do?
Check for leaks and if you find a broken pipe, turn your water off at the main valve. Your home has two shut-off valves: one is owned by the city and should only be accessed by city staff while the other is your personal shut-off valve that you should be able to access. The shut-off valves completely turn off water to the house and may be found in one of the following locations:

Personal shut-off valve locations:

  • In the crawl space where the water line enters the home
  • In the garage where the water line enters the wall or ceiling, near the water heater or laundry hookup
  • Outside near the foundation, often protected by a concrete ring or clay pipe
What should I do if one or more of my water pipes are frozen or I don’t have water?
Please contact a licensed plumber in your area. Additionally, Governor Abbott waived certain regulations for registered and qualified Plumber's Apprentices in Texas. These waivers allow a Plumber’s Apprentice, who has met all other qualifications, to temporarily perform plumbing repairs to help expedite the recovery process throughout our state.

If I apply for disaster assistance through FEMA, do I have to pay it back?
You do not have to repay any money received from FEMA's Individuals and Households Program.

Does my income need to be under a certain dollar amount to qualify for FEMA disaster aid?
No. FEMA’s Housing Assistance program is available, regardless of income, to anyone who suffered damage or losses in disaster-declared counties.

What happens if FEMA denies my application for assistance or says there is “no decision”?
If you received a letter from FEMA stating you’re ineligible for assistance or that there is “no decision,” read the letter carefully. FEMA might just need additional information from you to process your application. Remember, if you have insurance and are applying for federal assistance, you must file a claim with your insurance provider before applying for assistance through FEMA.

Applicants can also appeal a FEMA determination by submitting supporting information along with a letter describing in detail justification for your appeal. This document should include your full name, FEMA application number and disaster number, pre-disaster primary residence address and current phone number and address on all submitted documents. Application and disaster numbers are printed on page 1 of the determination letter.

Appeals and supporting documents may be submitted online, by mail, or by fax at the contact information listed below:

  • Uploading your documentation online at disasterassistance.gov
  • Mail documents within 60 days of receiving your determination letter to the address below. Your appeal must be postmarked within 60 days of the date on your letter from FEMA regarding your eligibility

FEMA National Processing Service Center

P.O. Box 10055

Hyattsville, MD 20782-7055

  • Fax your information to 800-827-8112

If you have questions about your FEMA eligibility status, please call (800) 621-3362, which is open daily from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM.

Does FEMA provide assistance to damage done to pools and landscaping?
No, unfortunately, FEMA does not provide assistance for pool or landscaping damage. However, the Small Business Administration (SBA) may.

If you are in a declared disaster area and have experienced damage to your home or personal property, you may be eligible for financial assistance from the SBA, even if you do not own a business. As a homeowner, renter, and/or personal property owner, you may apply for an SBA loan to help you recover from a disaster. Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate and up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property. For more information visit the SBA’s website here.

Does FEMA assistance help cover or reimburse for insurance deductibles?
FEMA Individual Assistance does not provide reimbursement for insurance deductibles. However, if an individual’s disaster-caused damage is less than their insurance deductible, they are considered uninsured and are encouraged to apply for FEMA Individual Assistance. The U.S. Small Business Administration also provides low-interest disaster loans that may assist applicants in covering the cost of insurance deductibles.

 Are there FEMA resources available to help with the cost increase in homeowner’s insurance?
FEMA does not have any authority in regard to homeowner’s insurance rates. 

Does FEMA provide assistance for energy price spikes or to address utility bills?
 
FEMA does not provide assistance to cover costs associated with spikes in energy pricing or to address utility bills. FEMA also cannot reimburse for food lost due to a power failure. Non-profit organizations in your community may be able to assist. Residents are encouraged to call 211 for assistance.

What is being done to help residents with mounting electricity bills?
 
The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) has issued a moratorium on customer disconnections for non-payment until further notice and will temporarily restrict providers from issuing invoices. Further, as a continuation of COVID-19 measures, Retail Electric Providers are required to offer deferred payment plans to customers when requested. You can find more information on the steps PUC is taking by visiting their website. However, please note, the orders are applicable to customers of investor owned utilities (IOUs) across the state that fall under the PUC’s jurisdiction (namely Oncor, AEP, CenterPoint, and TNMP). They do not apply to municipally owned utilities or electric cooperatives that reside outside the PUC’s jurisdiction in this area.

This moratorium gives the State Legislature time to address these mounting electricity bills and develop a solution for Texans after Governor Greg Abbott declared the correction of any billing errors related to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) as an emergency item for the 87th Legislature. As solutions are being discussed, please know, I will keep in constant communication with our state officials to ensure that Texans are not left to foot the bill of unreasonable utility bills they cannot afford due to the temporary massive spike in the energy market.

If you are experiencing possible price gouging, please submit a consumer complaint to the Office of the Attorney General by calling 800-621-0508 or visiting here.

My business or nonprofit experienced damages, are there any resources?
Yes. On February 23, 2021, the Small Business Administration (SBA) will establish a Virtual Business Recovery Center to provide personalized assistance to business owners. Customer Service Representatives will be available to business owners and individuals to answer questions about SBA’s disaster loan program, explain the application process and help each person complete their electronic loan application. Businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets. SBA can also lend additional funds to businesses to help with the cost of improvements to protect, prevent or minimize the same type of disaster damage from occurring in the future. Interest rates can be as low as 3 percent for businesses and 2 percent for private nonprofit organizations.

To apply for assistance, applicants can apply online here. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance.

Are there SBA loans for homeowners and renters?
Yes. If you are in a declared disaster area and have experienced damage to your home or personal property, you may be eligible for financial assistance from the SBA, even if you do not own a business. As a homeowner, renter and/or personal property owner, you may apply to the SBA for a loan to help you recover from a disaster. Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property. For more information from the SBA please visit their website here.

My business or nonprofit experienced damages, are there any resources?
Yes. On February 23, 2021, the Small Business Administration (SBA) will establish a Virtual Business Recovery Center to provide personalized assistance to business owners. Customer Service Representatives will be available to business owners and individuals to answer questions about SBA’s disaster loan program, explain the application process and help each person complete their electronic loan application. Businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets. SBA can also lend additional funds to businesses to help with the cost of improvements to protect, prevent or minimize the same type of disaster damage from occurring in the future. Interest rates can be as low as 3 percent for businesses and 2 percent for private nonprofit organizations.

Applicants can apply for assistance online here. For more information on SBA disaster assistance applicants may call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

 Are there SBA loans for homeowners and renters?
Yes. If you are in a declared disaster area and have experienced damage to your home or personal property, you may be eligible for financial assistance from the SBA, even if you do not own a business. As a homeowner, renter, and/or personal property owner, you may apply for an SBA loan to help you recover from a disaster. Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate and up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property. For more information visit the SBA’s website here.

 Where can I find emergency food assistance in North Texas following the winter crisis?
 
For those currently receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Governor Abbott and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) announced recipients can apply for replacement benefits for food lost or destroyed due to winter weather by calling 2-1-1. Additionally, Texas received federal approval to allow SNAP recipients to use their food benefits to purchase hot foods and ready-to-eat meals due to impacts from the severe winter storm.

SNAP recipients will additionally receive a 15 percent increase to their benefit amount through June. Texans in need can apply for benefits, including SNAP, at YourTexasBenefits.com.

Additionally, I have had conversations with state elected officials to ensure food banks are able to receive food to provide for our communities. As a result of skyrocketing natural gas prices, food banks were having problems obtaining food, but I am continuing to work to provide thousands of Texans with much needed resources. To find local resources in your area, such as food or shelter, please call 2-1-1 or visit Texas 211.

Can I get an extension on filing my taxes due to the winter storm?
 
Yes. The Internal Revenue Service announced victims of this month's winter storms in Texas will have until June 15, 2021, to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments. This extension includes:

  • 2020 individual and business returns normally due on April 15th
  • Various 2020 business returns due on March 15th
  • Making 2020 IRA contributions
  • Quarterly estimated income tax payments normally due on April 15th
  • Quarterly payroll and excise tax returns normally due on April 30th
  • Tax-exempt organizations, operating on a calendar-year basis, that have a 2020 return normally due on May 17th

To find out more information on this extension, please visit the IRS website here.

You may also be interested to know, on March 18, 2021, I hosted a Winter Storm Recovery Telephone Town Hall 
to provide information regarding the ongoing investigation as well as details about the resources and programs that may be available to your household or business. If you were unable to participate in my call, you can listen to the full recording here

Stay Connected