Miss. Residents Told to Use FEMA Money Wisely

January 26, 2006

Nearly 475,000 Mississippians have received a portion of more than $1 billion in disaster assistance to aid in their recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Federal and state officials continue to urge recipients to exercise caution when using these funds.

Under the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines, assistance provided through the Individuals and Households Program should be used according to specific program guidelines on eligible uses and recipients should keep all receipts.

Housing Assistance can be used for rental assistance, basic housing repairs or for qualified applicants, permanent housing construction. Short-term rental assistance is based on the average fair-market rental rates and allows qualified applicants to rent a different place to live while the primary residence is repaired or rebuilt. R eceipts must be provided to FEMA if the applicant requests continued rental assistance.

Homeowners may be eligible for Repair Assistance to repair damages that resulted from the disaster and are not covered by insurance. The goal is to make the damaged home safe, sanitary and functional.

Reimbursement for hotel or motel expenses is for out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the disaster. Receipts for these expenses will also be requested. Housing Replacement Assistance offers a limited amount of money to help replace a disaster-destroyed home.

More than $308 million in Other Needs Assistance funds has been disbursed to nearly 123,000 Mississippians. Other Needs Assistance may be provided to qualified applicants for uninsured or under-insured disaster-related necessary expenses. This assistance may include medical, dental, funeral, personal property, transportation, moving and storage, and other expenses that are authorized by law.

In addition to the funds, an applicant receives a letter indicating how the money should be spent. FEMA urges all applicants to use the assistance provided for its intended use. Failure to use the tax-free money as specified may cause FEMA to recoup the money.

For more information, applicants should call the FEMA helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585 for speech- or hearing-impaired. Information regarding the Individuals and Households Program and its guidelines is also available online at www.fema.gov . The last day for new applicants to register is March 11, 2006.

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