Safe Room Rebate Program Closes; Waitlist Expected

A North Texas agency stopped taking applications for storm shelter rebates after a few hours because of a high number of applicants.

The North Central Texas Council of Governments said it received more than 800 applications for the 400 available rebates in just four hours. Applications were accepted between 1:15 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

The Metro Safe Room Rebate Program is funded by a $1.395 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grant.

The NCTCOG admitted it underestimated demand.

"We didn't really expect it to go this fast," said Molly Thoerner, emergency preparedness director. "We thought we'd be able to stay open well into the day."

The NCTCOG said the 400 available rebates were equally distributed among Collin, Denton, Dallas and Tarrant counties. It will now review the submitted applications to remove duplicates and ineligible applicants.

The rebate program offers residents living or developing in Collin, Dallas, Denton or Tarrant counties a chance to qualify for half the cost of construction for an individual safe room, up to $3,000. But the rooms must be from a vendor approved by the National Storm Shelter Association or the American Tornado Shelter Association to qualify for reimbursement. NBC 5 Investigates first told you about the federal funding May 23.

The agency said it plans to ask FEMA for more money soon.

"Be patient," Thoerner said. "We'll work to get better and hopefully be able to bring lots more tornado shelters to our area."

The NCTCOG said it plans to reopen the application portal at in two weeks to allow people to join a wait list for future rebates.

"The wait list will be an important tool in assessing the demand for the program when the North Central Texas Council of Governments applies for additional federal funding," the agency said in a news release Wednesday. "Once the Metro Safe Room Rebate Program has received additional federal funding, the North Central Texas Council of Governments will begin to notify applicants on the wait list of their acceptance to the program on a first-come, first-serve basis."

Additionally, the council of governments said it was very encouraged by response of residents interested in the rebate program and looks forward to helping more North Texans when more funds are available.

NBC 5's Scott Friedman contributed to this report.

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