FEMA Recovery Grants are for Disaster-Related Expenses

JACKSON, Miss. – As Mississippi disaster survivors receive FEMA checks or direct deposits to help them recover from the severe storms, tornadoes and flooding of April 28 through May 3, it is important to understand that there are limits on how the money can be spent.

Use of the money for other than eligible expenses could result in having to return funds back to FEMA.

FEMA does not provide survivors with an itemized list of eligible expenses tailored to their specific situation. But it does provide an important booklet, “Help After a Disaster,” that spells out the kinds of expenses authorized in the Individuals and Households Program.

The grant covers only repair or replacement of items that were damaged as a direct result of the disaster and were not covered by insurance. Repairs and rebuilding may not improve a home above its pre-disaster condition unless such improvements are required by current building codes.

Use of the money is limited to repairing the home so that it is safe and sanitary so survivors can live there. It will not be enough to return the home to its condition before the disaster.

The money can be spent to repair structural parts of the home such as foundation, outside walls and roof.

Survivors also may use FEMA assistance provided for housing needs to repair:

  • Windows, doors, floors, walls, ceilings and cabinetry.
  • Septic or sewage systems.
  • Wells or other water system.
  • Heating, ventilating and air conditioning.
  • Utilities (electrical, plumbing and gas.)
  • Entrance and exit ways, including privately-owned access roads.
  • Blocking, leveling and anchoring of a mobile home and reconnecting or resetting its sewer, water, electrical and fuel lines and tanks.

Survivors also may receive money for “Other than Housing Needs.” This money is provided to repair damaged personal property or to pay for disaster-related expenses and serious needs, limited to items or services that help prevent or overcome a disaster-related hardship, injury or adverse condition. It does not pay to return or replace personal property to its condition before the disaster.

Examples of allowable Other than Housing Needs are disaster-related medical and dental costs, funeral and burial expenses, clothing, household items, heating fuel, disaster-specific clean-up items, a vehicle damaged by the disaster and moving and storage expenses.

Survivors should keep bills and receipts for three years to show how all of the FEMA grant money was spent. FEMA is authorized to do an audit.

Disaster survivors in Itawamba, Jones, Leake, Lee, Lowndes, Madison, Montgomery, Rankin, Simpson, Warren, Wayne and Winston counties may be eligible for FEMA’s Individual Assistance program. The deadline to register is June 30, 2014.

Individuals and households in those counties can register for FEMA Individual Assistance online at DisasterAssistance.gov, via smartphone or tablet at m.FEMA.gov or by calling the FEMA helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362.) People who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY should call 800-462-7585. Lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (central time) and assistance is available in multiple languages.

For more information on Mississippi disaster recovery, go to FEMA.gov/Disaster/4175. Visit the MEMA site at msema.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/msemaorg.