FEMA: Use disaster assistance grants wisely
by Staff Report
May 17, 2011 | 1610 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Disaster survivors who receive state and federal assistance payments are advised by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be cautious, use funds wisely and only for their intended purpose. Misuse could result in loss of funds.

To date, $2.7 million in recovery assistance has been approved for residents of Bartow, Catoosa, Cherokee, Coweta, Dade, Greene, Habersham, Harris, Heard, Floyd, Gordon, Lamar, Lumpkin, Meriwether, Monroe, Morgan, Newton, Pickens, Polk, Rabun, Spalding, Troup, Upson, Walker and White counties.

"Storm survivors should only use these grants to meet specific disaster-related needs," said FEMA's Federal Coordinating Officer Gracia Sczech. "If the applicant spends the money on anything other than the intended purpose, no additional assistance may be granted if the need arises in the future."

Housing assistance grants are intended for one of three uses only: for basic housing repairs, short-term rental assistance or reimbursement of hotel/motel expenses.

Other needs assistance grants are intended to help replace essential personal property and meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable-aid programs.

Most funds are deposited electronically, and a letter explaining what they are to be used for follows in the mail. Officials from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and FEMA offer the following tips to help disaster survivors get the most out of their personal disaster recovery payment:

If you receive your grant in the form of a check, make sure to deposit it promptly.

Don't:

* Be tempted to pay household bills.

* Make purchases unrelated to needs created by the disaster.

* Use the funds for travel.

All expenditures must be disaster-related. If the grant money is not used as outlined in the letter, a recipient may have to pay it back and may lose eligibility for any further help.

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.

Bartow DRC to remain open

Six Disaster Recovery Centers will close permanently at 6 p.m. on Thursday, disaster officials announced Monday. Bartow County's DRC will remain open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. until further notice.

The DRC is located at the Clarence Brown Conference Center, 5450 Highway 20, Cartersville.