When the power went out in Mayra Tovar’s Fort Worth apartment last Monday, she and her two kids went to stay with a relative. When the power came back on Wednesday, Tover says a neighbor called to tell her water was flowing out from under her front door.
“I said, 'Are you kidding me?' And she's like, 'I would not lie to you, sweetheart. You need to come right now,'” Tovar said.
Tovar and family members rushed to save what they could from the apartment. She estimated she lost $2,000 or $3,000 in furniture and personal belongings.
Tovar applied for assistance through FEMA on Sunday after she learned it was available. She’s now waiting on a call back from an inspector.
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“When I was sitting there taking all my stuff out, I wasn't thinking, 'It’s going to be OK, I can just call FEMA.' If it wasn't because of word of mouth, I wouldn't have done it. I think it's good to get the word out,” Tovar said.
Over the weekend, President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for 108 Texas counties, including much of North Texas. That means individuals can apply for assistance through FEMA for underinsured or uninsured losses.
FEMA recommends applying online.
Residents can reach someone over the phone at 800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585) seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
There are also low-interest disaster loans available through the U.S. Small Business Administration for businesses, homeowners and renters. You can find more information online or by calling 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 800-877-8339).
What’s Covered and What's Not
Generally, FEMA aims to cover costs of temporary housing and repairs to get homes back to a livable and safe condition. FEMA can’t duplicate insurance coverage, which is why FEMA is asking insured Texans to file a claim with their insurance companies as well.
"FEMA cannot duplicate insured benefits. So, you may be notified that we can't help you at this moment. That's part of the process. We have to wait until the insurance company pays off or gives you some kind of determination," FEMA Region 6 spokesperson Earl Armstrong said.
FEMA said it does not cover home insurance deductibles, but if insurance isn’t enough to pay for necessary expenses, FEMA may be able to help.
FEMA said it would cover the costs of additional childcare incurred in the disaster.
FEMA does not cover the cost of food spoiled in a fridge. SNAP recipients, however, are eligible for replacement benefits for food lost or destroyed in the disaster. SNAP clients can dial 211 and select option 2.
At this time, FEMA said it does not pay those high electric bills some people are facing because of the storm. If that changes, NBC 5 Responds will update it.
If you’re unsure about whether your losses are covered, register and tell FEMA about your situation. FEMA may be able to refer you to another agency that could help.
Before You Apply
FEMA will need contact information, including your current address if you are staying somewhere else after the disaster.
Prepare a general list of your losses and the damage to your property.
If you’re insured, FEMA will ask for your insurance policy number. If you don’t have it, be prepared to provide your insurance agent’s name or insurance company.
FEMA wants you to first file a claim with your insurance company, then apply for FEMA assistance second.
If it’s safe to start cleanup and repairs, you can do that now to prevent further damage. Just take photos to document damage and save receipts for any purchases.
Armstrong said there isn't an exact timetable, but it may take a few days for an inspector to call after you apply. The inspector may require an inspection.
FEMA says it is currently doing all inspections virtually because of COVID-19. If approved, assistance would take a few more days after that.
What if my county is not included in the major disaster declaration?
The declaration covers the following 108 counties: Anderson, Angelina, Aransas, Austin, Bastrop, Bee, Bell, Bexar, Blanco, Bosque, Bowie, Brazoria, Brazos, Brown, Burleson, Burnet, Caldwell, Calhoun, Cameron, Chambers, Cherokee, Collin, Colorado, Comal, Comanche, Cooke, Coryell, Dallas, Denton, DeWitt, Ellis, Erath, Falls, Fannin, Fort Bend, Freestone, Galveston, Gillespie, Gonzales, Grayson, Gregg, Grimes, Guadalupe, Hardin, Harris, Harrison, Hays, Henderson, Hidalgo, Hill, Hood, Houston, Hunt, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jim Wells, Johnson, Jones, Kaufman, Kendall, Lavaca, Liberty, Limestone, Lubbock, Madison, Matagorda, Maverick, McLennan, Medina, Milam, Montague, Montgomery, Nacogdoches, Navarro, Nueces, Orange, Palo Pinto, Panola, Parker, Polk, Rockwall, Rusk, Sabine, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Scurry, Shelby, Smith, Stephens, Tarrant, Taylor, Travis, Tom Green, Tyler, Upshur, Val Verde, Van Zandt, Victoria, Walker, Waller, Washington, Wharton, Wichita, Williamson, Wilson, Wise and Wood.
If you’re in another county, Texas Division of Emergency Management Director Nim Kidd said that Texans should fill out the state's damage assessment report, which will be used with the goal of securing more federal relief.
Tovar said when she left her apartment last Monday, she expected to be back in a couple of days. Instead, the carpets and walls of her home for the last seven years are soaked.
“There are times where I get upset or I cry because I'm in a vulnerable situation that I'm not used to being in because I'm a very independent person,” Tovar said. “I have somewhere to go, that my kids have somewhere to stay, that's really what's getting me through.”
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