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What you need to know about FEMA assistance following Hurricane Laura

TDEM says they are asking for damage assessment to identify where most of the damage is

ORANGE, Texas — The Texas Department of Emergency Management says they are continuing to assess the damage left behind from Hurricane Laura. That assessment will be used to make a case for FEMA assistance. 

12News spoke with TDEM to answer your question about help from FEMA and whether you will get reimbursed for evacuating during the hurricane.

What you need to do

TDEM is asking for residents and business owners to submit a damage assessment survey. That information will help them identify where the most damage is. 

It will also allow TDEM to make a case for FEMA assistance. 

A spokesperson for State Farm told 12News there may be some coverage if a tree falls on your home, but not if it just falls in your yard. 

When hiring people to do some of the heavy work, Chris Pilcic with State Farm says it's important to make sure you do your research. 

"Storms can be financially, physically, emotionally draining, but you want to make informed decisions when you're hiring someone to work on your property. So do plenty of research get referrals from your neighbors, friends, insurance companies, and make sure you get estimates that are detailed, in writing, and don't pay for anything up front," Pilcic said.

Why haven't I heard from FEMA?

It could be several days, possibly even weeks, before a determination is made about FEMA individual assistance. After Tropical Storm Imelda in 2019, many across Southeast Texas waited several days before President Trump approved FEMA assistance. 

There needs to be 800 homes with major damage that is not covered by insurance before FEMA assistance is approved. 

So far, individual assistance has been approved for six Louisiana parishes (Cameron, Calcasieu, Jefferson Davis, Allen, Beauregard, Vernon). 

Didn't Pres. Trump approve a disaster declaration for SETX?

On August 25, President Trump amended the emergency declarations for Louisiana and Texas. This declaration includes Jefferson, Orange, Jasper, Hardin, Chambers and Newton counties. 

According to FEMA, "...these counties were previously limited to direct federal assistance and reimbursement for mass care including evacuation and shelter support."

"The President's action authorizes FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, to save lives, to protect property, public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe."

What about assistance for my county?

TDEM says that no county has currently met their threshold to qualify for public assistance. 

Orange County Judge Gothia says he believes Orange has already qualified, though that has not been verified by TDEM. 

To qualify for public assistance, the state must incur $39 million in public infrastructure damage. That applies to roads, bridges and other local jurisdictions. 

Public assistance approval is different that individual assistance. 

That would mean 800 uninsured homes and businesses would have to have major damage. 

The state's also in the process of assessing damages, so self-reporting is important. To help the state see where the most damage is, fill out the state's survey.

Will I get reimbursed if I evacuated? 

TDEM says if you evacuated on your own and paid for your own hotel room you will not be reimbursed for evacuating during Hurricane Laura. 

If you went to one of the hubs in San Antonio, Dallas or Austin, your hotel expenses are taken care of. 

Right now, TDEM says the state has records of 9,700 evacuees and 3,100 hotel rooms. 

If you booked on your own, your hotel stay will not be reimbursed.