FEMA: Use Care with Disaster Assistance Money

July 21, 2005

With hundreds of disaster assistance checks being distributed to hurricane victims in Alabama, state and federal emergency officials are urging recipients to handle the money with caution and confine spending to disaster-related losses.

James Russo of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the official in charge of federal recovery operations, said careless handling of assistance checks inevitably causes problems for some survivors in every disaster.

“This is a time when people are particularly vulnerable and predators are quick to take advantage of them,” said Russo. “When dealing with hundreds or thousands of dollars, caution is the operative word.”

He said checks should be deposited in a bank as soon as possible, large sums should not be carried and recipients should never deal with strangers offering check-cashing or deposit services.

“This financial assistance is intended to ease the pain of serious disaster losses and it is to be used for that purpose,” added Bruce Baughman, director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency.

Baughman urged applicants to avoid the temptation to pay household bills with the money or use it for purchases unrelated to needs created by the disaster. He also suggested they keep receipts of their disaster spending.

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