- As individuals begin to assess damage and make repairs to area homes and businesses, contact 8-1-1 to have utility lines marked before you dig to keep everyone safe.
- For questions about filing a claim or for insurance company contact information, you may contact the Texas Department of Insurance hotline at 1-800-252-3439, or click here for additional resources.
- Follow me on Twitter: @RepFletcher
- If your home was damaged from the winter storm:
- Make a list of damaged property. Keep all receipts and take pictures and/or video of the damage. Don't throw anything away until your insurance company tells you to.
- Try to be there when the insurance company comes to inspect the damage. If you can’t stay in your home, leave a note with information on where you can be reached.
- Keep a list of everyone you talk to at your insurance company. Be ready to answer questions about the damage.
- If you can’t live in your home due to the damage, your insurance policy may pay for some of those expenses. Keep your receipts and ask your insurance company if any additional living expenses are covered.
- Houstonians can submit damages via the following "Personal Property Damage Reporting" forms:
- Tips and resources from the Texas Department of Insurance on getting help after the storm with insurance here
- FAQs on Winter Storm Damage and Repairs
Scams, Price-Gouging, and Consumer Protection
Disasters often bring communities together but con artists, identity thieves and other criminals may target survivors. The most common types of post-disaster fraud include phony housing inspectors, fraudulent building contractors, bogus pleas for disaster donations, fake offers of municipal or federal aid and charging for free services.
Scam attempts can be made over the phone, by mail or email, through the internet, or in person. Do not trust anyone who offers financial help and then asks for money or personal information. The Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff never charge for disaster assistance.
- The best information on legitimate sources of help in your area will come from local officials.
- Do not disclose information to any unsolicited telephone calls and emails.
- Federal and local disaster workers do not solicit or accept money.
- Beware of visits, calls or emails from people claiming to be from FEMA asking for your Social Security number, bank account or other sensitive information. Giving out this type of information can lead to identify theft.
- The Texas Department of Insurance is warning people to be aware of potential contracting scams as they begin making repairs. They are operating a help line to prevent contractor scams: 800-252-3439.
Helpful tips on avoiding contractor fraud can be found here.
The Texas Department of Insurance is also sharing tips on avoiding insurance fraud here.
FEMA is discrediting reported types of fraud in the area here.
- Get more than one bid. That will help you decide which offers are too high or too good to be true. Don’t give out any personal information or agree to any payment until you independently verify that the offer is legitimate.
- Check references and phone numbers. Call the Better Business Bureau to see if a contractor has complaints.
- Never give policy numbers, coverage details, or other person information to companies with whom you have not entered a contract. Always get a written contract.
- Don't pay up front and don’t make your final payment until the job is finished. In a disaster, contractors from outside your area can’t ask for payment before they start work.
- Avoid contractors who offer to waive your deductible or promise a rebate for it. That’s illegal under state law and your insurance company may ask for proof that you paid it.CenterPoint Energy will not come to your door, nor will any other utility provider, without contacting you first. Do not allow anyone into your home without verifying they have previously contacted you and without asking for a verifying their identification.
Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM)
- Plumber Locator Map
- Disaster Assistance Resources: www.tdem.texas.gov
- TDEM has a “winter weather” box which opens to all the TDEM resources for individuals and locals. This includes the reporting tool, FEMA disaster assistance, the Winter Weather FAQ, Local Official Resources and Warming Centers still operating.
- Individual Self-Reporting Tool for Winter Weather Damages: damage.tdem.texas.gov
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
If you don't have insurance and your home was damaged by the severe winter storms in one of the designated counties, apply for assistance now. It is recommended that even if you have insurance, you should apply for reimbursement just in case your insurance claim is denied. FEMA cannot duplicate benefits for losses that are already covered by insurance, but uncovered damage may be eligible for federal aid.
- FEMA’s Individual Assistance (IA) program: Provides financial assistance to eligible individuals and households who have uninsured and underinsured necessary expenses and serious needs for their primary residence. It is not a substitute for insurance and cannot pay for all losses caused by a disaster, but it can be applied for after you have filed an insurance claim, if you have unmet needs that FEMA may find to be eligible.
- Does not provide assistance for energy price spikes or to address utility bills.
- Cannot reimburse for food lost due to a power failure.
- Does not affect one’s eligibility for welfare, income assistance, or income-tested benefit programs and is exempt from garnishment or seizure.
- Disaster assistance may include grants to help pay for:
- Emergency home repairs for disaster-related damage to the primary residence.
- Uninsured and underinsured personal property losses.
- Lodging expenses reimbursement, for individuals whose home was inaccessible or unhabitable during the disaster, if not covered by insurance or any other program.
- Medical expenses incurred from the disaster.
- Other serious disaster-related expenses.
How to Apply
- The FEMA Individual Assistance application deadline has passed.
- Survivors who registered with FEMA IA and were ineligible or have received no decision, will receive notification explaining the eligibility and the reason for that decision. Some common reasons for a no decision or ineligible determination are below. Other reasons can be found here.
- The survivor is insured and needs to provide an insurance settlement or denial to be considered for assistance.
- Additional information is needed from the survivor.
- The home is safe to occupy, and/or property had minimum or no damage.
- There were multiple registrations using the same address.
- Those who registered for assistance can check on the status of their application, or add new information to your application by visiting the disaster assistance website.
What to Expect Next
Uninsured or underinsured Texans may be contacted to schedule a virtual home inspection. Applicants who self-reported during registration that they received minimal damage and can live in their homes will not automatically be scheduled for a home inspection. Instead, they will receive a letter from FEMA explaining that they may call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585) to request an inspection if they find significant disaster-caused damage to their home after they applied.
- Virtual Inspections: Inspectors will initiate a virtual inspection by contacting the applicant at the number provided on their application. The inspector will ask the applicant if they would like to perform the inspection and in many cases be able to offer it via video streaming using Apple FaceTime or Zoom Video Communications.
- Inspectors are trained to help the applicant with downloading and/or signing-up to Zoom Video if necessary.
- If an applicant needs a reasonable accommodation, including translation and ASL interpreters, please pay careful to question number 24 about people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs. This question will also help to identify other services for which applicants may be eligible to receive reimbursement. Here is a link to assist with question 24: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyqC7m8p29w
- If you need a reasonable accommodation or assistance filling out your FEMA application, please call 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585. Those who use a relay service such as a videophone, InnoCaption or CapTel should alert FEMA as to the specific number assigned to that service. **A household member, relative or friend may also assist in communicating with the inspector.
- During the inspection applicants will be asked questions about the type and extent of damage sustained. During the video streaming, the applicant will have the opportunity to show the inspector their areas of concern such as roof, windows, floor, ceiling, basements, access points, habitability, rooms, furniture, appliances, Americans with Disabilities Act items (such as ramps and grab bars), etc. **A video assessment can be combined with an exterior-only inspection, when necessary.
- For more information on the process please visit the FEMA YouTube page: FEMA Uses Technology to Conduct Inspections for Disaster Survivors - YouTube.
- If You Can’t Do a Virtual Inspection: Applicants who do not have the ability to participate with video through Zoom or FaceTime will speak with inspectors by phone.
Part of the FEMA disaster assistance registration process includes providing a call back phone number for FEMA to contact the applicant to set up a virtual home inspection for damage caused by the disaster and other helpline information. It is important to update the contact information if it changes. Applicants may update contact information online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, by downloading the FEMA app or calling the helpline number. Applicants who use a relay service, such as InnoCaption or CapTel, should provide their specific number assigned to that service. It is important that FEMA can contact them. Applicants should be aware phone calls from FEMA may come from an unidentified number.
What Storm Survivors Should Do After the Registration Deadline Has Passed
Survivors may do the following:
Stay in Touch with FEMA — If you registered for disaster assistance following the February severe winter storms, stay in touch with FEMA. The easiest way to update your application, check your status or provide missing information is to create an account at DisasterAssistance.gov or call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585) between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. CT daily.
Call 2-1-1 for Unmet Needs — 2-1-1 Texas is a program of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission that is committed to helping Texas citizens connect with the services they need. No matter where you live in Texas, you can dial 2-1-1, or 877-541-7905, and find information about resources in your local community including help finding food or housing, childcare, crisis counseling or substance-abuse treatment.
Appeal FEMA’s Disaster Assistance Determination Letter — If you are found to be ineligible for disaster assistance following the winter storms, or you feel the award amount is insufficient, you have the right to an appeal. Carefully read your determination letter to understand why the decision was made and how you can receive the assistance you need. For more information, you may contact the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585).
Help is available:
Disaster Distress Support — Survivors can call and speak to a trained professional who can help them cope with anxiety or stress and guide them to available resources. This multilingual, confidential crisis support service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 800-985-5990 (TTY: 800-846-8517) or text TalkWithUs (Spanish speakers, text Hablanos) to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
If you don’t have internet access or need services not found on the website, you may call FEMA’s toll-free helpline at 800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585) between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. CT daily to:
Add or change household members and number of occupants
Update contact preferences (mail, email, text, etc.)
Update payment preference
Notify FEMA of a change in your current address
Correct or verify home and property damage
Callers should refer to their nine-digit registration number, which can be found on all communications from FEMA.
Small Business Loan Assistance
SBA provides low-interest, long-term loans for physical and economic damage caused by a declared disaster. In Harris County, residents can apply for the three types of loans listed below.
- Home and Personal Property Loans
- The deadline to apply passed on April 20, 2021.
- Homeowners may apply for up to $200,000 to replace or repair their primary residence.
- The loans may not be used to upgrade homes or make additions, unless required by local building code.
- If you make improvements that help prevent the risk of future property damage caused by a similar disaster, you may be eligible for up to a 20 percent loan amount increase above the real estate damage, as verified by the SBA.
- Renters and homeowners may borrow up to $40,000 to replace or repair personal property — such as clothing, furniture, cars and appliances — damaged or destroyed in a disaster.
- Proceeds from insurance coverage on your home or property will be deducted from the total damage estimate to determine the eligible loan amount.
- The interest rate will either not exceed 1.25 or 2.5 percent, depending on your ability to obtain credit elsewhere.
- Business Physical Disaster Loans
- The deadline to apply passed on April 20, 2021.
- Business owners may apply for physical disaster loans of up to $2 million for qualified businesses or most private nonprofit organizations.
- The loans may be used for the repair or replacement of real property, machinery, equipment, fixtures, inventory, and leasehold improvements.
- The SBA Business Physical Disaster Loan covers disaster losses not fully covered by insurance.
- You may not use the disaster loan to upgrade or expand a business, except as required by building codes.
- If you make improvements that help reduce the risk of future property damage caused by a similar disaster, you may be eligible for up to a 20 percent loan amount increase above the real estate damage, as verified by the SBA.
- The interest rate will either not exceed 3 or 6 percent, depending on your ability to obtain credit elsewhere.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)
- A small business, small agricultural cooperative, and most private nonprofit organizations who has suffered substantial economic injury may apply for EIDL loans of up to $2 million.
- The loans may be used to assist a business meet its obligations and to pay its ordinary and necessary operating expenses.
- Your loan amount will be based on your actual economic injury and your company's financial needs, regardless of whether the business suffered any property damage.
- The interest rate will not exceed 2 percent per year for non-profits and 3 percent per year for other applicants and the terms of these loans will not exceed 30 years.
- EIDL assistance is available only to small businesses when SBA determines they are unable to obtain credit elsewhere.
- A business can qualify for both an EIDL and a physical disaster loan for a maximum combined loan amount of $2 million.
- Submit an application here with a signed and dated IRS Form 4506-T, giving permission for the IRS to provide your tax return information to the SBA.
- Deadline to apply: November 19, 2021.
Homeowners and renters must first contact FEMA before applying for SBA loans. Business owners are recommended to do the same, though it is not mandatory. To contact FEMA, go to DisasterAssistance.gov, go through the FEMA app, or call 1-800-621-3362.
Additional details for this disasters can be found here.
The SBA has also established two new resources to help address disaster loan questions. Starting February 23, 2021, the Virtual Business Recovery Center and the Virtual Disaster Loan Outreach Center may be reached Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. by calling (800) 659-2955 or emailing FOCWAssistance@sba.gov.
- The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) accepted applications for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) as a result of the February winter storm. The deadline to apply for DUA passed on March 26, 2021.
- TWC’s website contains more information about Disaster Unemployment Assistance.
- To receive DUA benefits, all required documentation must be submitted within 21 days from the day the DUA application is filed.
- Learn more here.
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