Here’s how Texans can apply for federal help to recover from the devastating winter storm

Volunteer Kaede Polkinghorne, center, helps a team of volunteers prepare masks at Kelly Garden at a supply distribution event on Feb. 19, 2021 in Houston. Many in Houston are still without water or supplies in the aftermath of the statewide snowfall. (May-Ying Lam for The Texas Tribune) KAEDE – white female

Volunteer Kaede Polkinghorne, center, helps a team of volunteers prepare masks at Kelly Garden at a supply distribution event last week in Houston. Texans in certain counties whose property was damaged by this month’s deadly winter storm can apply for federal assistance for things not covered by insurance.

Credit: May-Ying Lam for The Texas Tribune

Texans in more than 100 counties can begin applying for federal assistance to help them recover from last week’s massive winter storm that caused widespread power outages, water disruptions and building damages from burst pipes.

And the number of counties whose residents qualify for such aid could grow “as more work is done to evaluate need,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s office announced Monday 31 additional counties whose residents can apply for assistance. That is in addition to the 77 counties President Joe Biden’s administration included in a major disaster declaration this weekend. (You can find the counties whose residents can apply here).

Before applying for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, insured Texans should first file claims through their existing policies. People cannot receive disaster and insurance assistance for the same damages. Doing so would be considered insurance fraud, according to FEMA. Texans without insurance in counties under Biden’s major disaster declaration can go ahead and apply for federal aid.

Earl Armstrong, a FEMA spokesperson, said that eligible Texans should file their insurance claim first then shortly after apply for disaster assistance. Eventually, FEMA will require proof of occupancy or ownership, identification and an insurance determination letter to move forward, but folks can still apply for assistance before that determination letter comes in. People should also photograph any damages they see.

Texans interested in receiving disaster assistance must apply through disasterassistance.gov and should have the following information readily available: Social security number, insurance details, a description of any storm-related damage and losses, financial details like total annual household income before taxes and contact information. You can read more about what you need in order to apply here.

Those without internet access can call FEMA toll-free at 1-800-621-3362 to apply for assistance or check application status. People who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who use a Text Telephone can call 800-462-7585. You can also visit a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center in person by looking for the nearest location here.

Texas sustained between $45 and $50 billion in damage and economic loss from the storm, according to AccuWeather. That figure includes job and wage losses, infrastructure damage, auxiliary business losses, medical expenses and closures. FEMA eventually releases its own report on the magnitude of the destruction inflicted on a disaster-stricken area.

People who experienced storm-related damages are encouraged to fill out this survey to report property damages to emergency management officials as part of “a statewide effort to collect damage assessment data” the Texas Division of Emergency Management tweeted.

The major disaster declaration can help individuals and business owners through grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other forms of assistance.

For those who are eligible, FEMA’s housing assistance program can provide reimbursement for people who opted for short-term stays in hotels or motels, rental assistance for temporary housing, money to repair or replace a home or possibly permanent housing construction. The eligibility requirements are on FEMA’s website.

Moreover, FEMA can provide financial assistance for “necessary expenses and serious needs directly caused by the disaster” like fuel for heat, clean-up items, and damages to essential household items (like furniture, appliances, clothing, and necessary educational materials), among others necessary expenses determined by the agency. Armstrong, a FEMA spokesperson, said that after submitting a disaster assistance application, people who applied should hear back “within days.”

Texas Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, tweeted that his Senate district is “currently stuck without” FEMA individual assistance because the Texas Division of Emergency Management “didn’t have enough data to share about damages.”

“That means we MUST self-report damage to our homes and District if we want to be eligible for federal disaster aid — even if you are planning to make repairs yourself,” he said.

Biden’s major disaster declaration also provides emergency public assistance to all 254 counties.

“Federal funding is also available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures and hazard mitigation measures statewide,” according to a statement from the White House.

“So far more than 1 million meals have been shipped to Texas, more than 4 million litres of water have been shipped to Texas, the Department of Defense fixed wing aircraft continued to deliver water in bulk to multiple locations in Texas,” Psaki said Monday, adding that 69 emergency generators and more than 120,000 blankets have been delivered to the state.

Counties included in major disaster declaration

Here are the counties under a major disaster declaration, whose residents can begin applying for FEMA assistance, according to the White House and Gov. Greg Abbott’s office:

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, Gonzales, Gillespie, Grimes, Guadalupe, Grayson, Gregg, 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, Medina, McLennan, 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, Tom Green, Travis, Tyler, Upshur, Van Zandt, Val Verde, Victoria, Walker, Waller, Washington, Wood, Wharton, Wichita, Williamson, Wilson, and Wise.

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