FEMA reminds recipients restrictions apply to grants

Published 6:10 pm Monday, December 12, 2016

North Carolina residents who received disaster-recovery assistance should make smart choices when it comes to spending they received, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Although FEMA has approved nearly $83 million in tax-free aid to help victims of Hurricane Matthew and subsequent flooding recover, the agency urges recipients to spend the money only on disaster-related expenses. The FEMA grant does not have to be paid back, according to a FEMA news release.

FEMA grants should not be used for normal living expenses such as food, utilities or medical and dental care not related to the disaster. Those funds should not be used for travel, entertainment or other discretionary expenses not disaster-related, according to FEMA.

“FEMA also encourages you to keep your receipts for three years to show how the funds were spent. After every major disaster FEMA conducts audits of disaster assistance payments to ensure taxpayer dollars were properly provided by the agency and appropriately used by recipients. It’s important to remember that federal law prohibits duplicating disaster assistance from other sources,” according to the release.

Nate Custer, a FEMA media specialist, emphasizes the importance of keeping receipts related to disaster-recovery expenses. “FEMA does encourage people who receive grants to keep receipts for their disaster-related expenses because there are random audits conducted,” he said in an email.

According to the latest figures available, 76,893 registrants had applied for disaster-recovery assistance. In Beaufort County, 639 registrants applied for aid, with $465,672.17 approved as of Thursday, according to information provided by Custer. (FEMA assistance data are updated each Wednesday.)

When a FEMA grant recipient receives any letter from the agency, he should read it carefully. Recipients with question should call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 for voice, 711 and Video Relay Service. Any recipient who is deaf, hard of hearing or has a speech disability and uses a TTY should call 1-800-462-7585. Recipients may also visit a disaster-recovery center. Find the nearest DRC by going online to www.fema.gov/drc.
Approved uses of FEMA aid include the following:

  • 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 or specialized tools;
  • necessary educational materials (computers, school books, supplies);
  • moving and storage expenses related to the disaster;
  • child care and funeral expenses.

The deadline to apply for FEMA assistance is Jan. 9, 2017.

For more information on North Carolina’s recovery, visit fema.gov/disaster/4285 and readync.org. Follow FEMA on Twitter at @femaregion4 and North Carolina Emergency Management @NCEmergency.


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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