On May 26th, Governor Abbott toured the damaged areas of Houston, and extended his federal disaster declaration request to Harris County. On May 29th, President Obama formally granted Governor Abbott's disaster declaration request for Harris County. This important development makes available two types of assistance from the federal government. For cities, local governments, and non-profit organizations, the disaster declaration makes public assistance available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in which they may apply for reimbursement for certain categories of services. The declaration also makes available individual assistance to flood-affected individuals, pending they meet certain qualifications. This assistance can include medical care and evacuation, emergency shelters, feeding and clothing, temporary housing, mortgage and rent assistance, job placement and unemployment assistance, property cleanup and repair and trauma counseling for qualified applicants.
Per my office’s conversations with Chief Kidd, of the Texas Department of Public Safety Emergency Management Division, there are steps those affected by flood damage should immediately take. First, file a claim with your insurance company (if you have insurance) and register your damage with the City by calling 3-1-1 to report it. Take as many pictures as possible, find any receipts or other documentation that may act as proof of value, and keep any receipts from repairs. Secondly, register with FEMA and apply for assistance. This can be done online by visiting www.disasterassistance.gov or by phone by calling 1-800-462-7585. You will need the following documents to apply:
- Social Security number
- Current and pre-disaster address
- A telephone number where you can be contacted
- Insurance information
- Total household annual income
- A routing and account number from your bank (only necessary if you want to have disaster assistance funds transferred directly into your bank account)
- A description of your losses that were caused by the disaster
Once you apply, FEMA will send an inspector to your property to inspect the damage. Currently, FEMA has 200 inspectors in the District 134 area. They also plan on dispatching Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams to walk throughout damaged neighborhoods. Members of these teams will be wearing FEMA distinctive clothing and will be carrying FEMA badges. They will also be equipped with machines to register residents for assistance on the spot. There is currently a backlog of 2500, but they are diligently working to reach every household and reduce the backlog.
There are also several volunteer resources available to help find temporary housing or other needs, including Jewish Family Services (713-667-9336 or firstname.lastname@example.org) and https://houstonflood.recovers.org/, which is a website created to aid affected residents in requesting help or to volunteer or donate.
Please keep in mind that the city requires construction permits forany repairs. If your property is located in a mapped 100 year floodplain, additional permits may be required. For information on this, please visit the City of Houston’s Public Works and Engineering homepage and click on the link “Storm Damage Repair Guidelines.”
If you have any questions regarding flood recovery, please don’t hesitate to contact my office at 713.521.4474.