How to Get Help from FEMA and SBA

Disaster Recovery Centers Open in Harris, Montgomery Counties to Help Imelda Survivors

Joint state/federal Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) opened earlier this month in Harris, Montgomery and certain other southeast Texas counties to help disaster survivors affected by Tropical Storm Imelda.

Recovery specialists from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), local and state agencies will staff the centers. They can answer questions about disaster assistance and low-interest disaster loans. They can also help survivors apply for federal disaster assistance. The closest centers to the Lake Houston Area are at the following locations:

  • Harris County Social Services Building
  • 9418 Jensen Drive
  • Houston, TX 77093
  • May County Center
  • 2100 Wolf Road
  • Huffman, TX 77336
  • Montgomery County Disaster Recovery Center
  • Bullas Sallas Park – Fair Association Building
  • 21675 McCleskey Road
  • New Cany, TX 77359
  • Jack Hartel Bld.
  • 318 San Jacinto Street
  • Liberty, TX 77575

Seven Days a Week (Until Further Notice)

DRCs help state and local officials maximize their reach to as many affected areas and survivors as possible. The centers offer in-person support to Texas homeowners, renters and business owners who sustained damage or losses during Tropical Storm Imelda.

Individual Assistance

Texas homeowners, renters and business owners in Chambers, Harris, Jefferson, Liberty, Montgomery and Orange counties that were included in the major disaster declaration for Individual Assistance may apply for uninsured and underinsured damage and losses incurred from Sept. 17 – 23, 2019.

Individual Assistance for homeowners and renters may be eligible for grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses not met by insurance or other assistance programs. 

Disaster survivors must meet the following criteria qualify for assistance through the Individuals and Households Program:

  • Disaster losses are in a presidentially-declared disaster area.
  • The damage to the home must have been caused by the declared disaster.
  • The homeowner must provide proof of ownership.
  • Both renters and homeowners may also be eligible for Other Needs Assistance (ONA) through FEMA. ONA helps survivors with uninsured or underinsured necessary expenses and serious needs caused by the disaster.
  • A member of the household must be a United States citizen, a non-citizen national, or a qualified alien.
  • The damaged home is where the applicant lives the majority of the year.
  • The applicant must have maintained flood insurance if assisted by FEMA in a previous disaster.
  • The damaged home is inaccessible or not livable due to the disaster.
  • The disaster survivor has necessary expenses or serious needs as a result of the disaster that are not covered by insurance or any othersource.

How to Register Online

To register, go online to or call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362. Help is available in most languages and phone lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

What to Bring if You Go to a DRC

Survivors who plan to register with FEMA at a DRC should have the following information:

  • Social Security number
  • Address of the damaged primary residence
  • Description of the damage
  • Information about insurance coverage
  • A current contact telephone number
  • An address where they can receive mail
  • Bank account and routing numbers for direct deposit of funds

Other Types of Assistance Available

Low-interest disaster loans from SBA are also available to businesses, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters to cover residential and business losses as a result of the disaster. Applicants can visit a DRC for one-on-one assistance, visit call SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955

Here is an SBA Loan Fact sheet.

It explains the three different types of available disaster loans:

  • Business Physical Disaster Loans
  • Economic Injury
  • Home Disaster

The fact sheet also describes:

  • Loan terms
  • Loan limits
  • Interest rates
  • Restrictions on eligibility.
  • Funding of mitigation improvements
  • Refinancing
  • Relocation

This flowchart explains the three-step SBA Loan Application Process – application, verification, loan – much like any other loan.

Finally, this fact sheet discusses the three ways to register and apply: online, in person or by mail.

Difference Between SBA Loan and Individual Assistance

Many people I talk to have been wiped out financially by back-to floods. They fear they may not have the ability to repay an SBA loan. Therefore, they don’t want to apply for one. If you fall into that category, understand that being turned down for an SBA loan may qualify you for Individual Assistance. To get IA, you need to apply for an SBA loan first.

Group Flood Insurance

If you had Individual or Other Needs Assistance from a previous flood, you may already have GROUP flood insurance and not even know it. As part of the effort to reduce future expenses from floods, FEMA directly purchases Group Flood Insurance Policy (GFIP) certificates on behalf of applicants who are required to buy and maintain flood insurance BUT who may not otherwise be able to purchase a policy. FEMA may pay $600 under Other Needs Assistance (ONA) for three years of flood insurance for eligible ONA recipients. So if you flooded during Harvey and again on May 7th or during Imelda, check this out. Here is a factsheet on group flood insurance and a previous post on the subject.

For People with Disabilities

Disaster recovery centers are accessible to people with disabilities. American Sign Language interpreters may be available to assist at a DRC.

FEMA Disaster survivors who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY may call 800-462-7585 to register. Those who use 711 or VRS (Video Relay Service) or require accommodations while visiting a center may call 800-621-3362. All disaster recovery centers are accessible and equipped with tools to accommodate disaster survivors who need disability-related communication aids.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/27/2019

789 Days after Hurricane Harvey