Months later still struggling from February's winter storm? Here's some information to help.

Robin Bradshaw
Alice Echo News Journal

Texas survivors of the February severe winter storm who applied for disaster assistance from FEMA may be referred to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) with additional information on how to apply for a disaster loan.

The SBA is now offering low-interest disaster loans to businesses of all sizes, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters. SBA low-interest disaster loans are the primary source of funds for real estate property repairs and replacing contents destroyed during February’s severe winter storms. The program is for the underinsured and uninsured. In every instance, insurance is your first line of defense. SBA low-interest disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other resources.

Survivors of the February severe winter storms in Texas who apply for disaster assistance from FEMA may be referred to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) with information on how to apply for a disaster loan.

Survivors should not wait for an insurance settlement before submitting an SBA loan application. They may discover they were underinsured for the deductible, labor and materials required to repair or replace their home. An SBA loan can potentially cover the gap. SBA has approved more than $110 million in federal disaster loans to help Texas businesses and residents recover from the winter storms. Businesses, nonprofits and residents who sustained damage due to the storms are encouraged to apply for a loan as soon as possible.

What type of assistance is available? 

  • For private wells, furnaces, and septic systems, FEMA may provide assistance or reimbursement for the cost of a professional, licensed technician’s estimate of the repair or replacement of these items.
  • You also may receive assistance for the actual repair or replacement of these items not typically covered by homeowner’s insurance.
  • ▪ If you have applied for FEMA assistance and have not had a home inspection, you should call FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 for instructions related to your situation. At the time of your inspection please let the FEMA inspector know you have a private well and/or septic system that may have been damaged by the storm. If you have registered and your house has already been inspected, you should call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621- 3362 for instructions on how to appeal.

Disaster recovery officials remind survivors who may have received FEMA disaster funds that it’s important to use the money for the intended purpose – disaster-related expenses - and not for household expenses or other expenditures. FEMA will help by sending a determination letter telling you what the money is being awarded for and listing the ways the money can be used.

What expenses qualify? 

  • Home repairs (e.g., structure, water, septic, and sewage systems)
  • Rental assistance for rent and/or deposit
  •  Repair or replacement of a flooded essential vehicle
  • Medical or dental care for an uninsured injury caused by the disaster
  • Repair of occupational specialized tools
  • Necessary educational materials (e.g., computers, schoolbooks, supplies)
  • Moving and storage expenses related to the disaster
  • Increased childcare expenses Disaster grants are not for regular living expenses. 

What if my original application was denied?

  • Every applicant may appeal FEMA’s decision.
  • Appeals must be submitted in writing within 60 days of the date of FEMA’s letter determining eligibility. Survivors of February’s severe winter storms in Texas who registered with FEMA may have received a determination letter regarding eligibility for assistance. Read the letter carefully. It may not be the final answer.
  • FEMA may simply need additional information or documentation to process your application.

SBA Loans Available

  • For individuals and families: For homeowners, up to $200,000 to repair or replace real estate damage and up to $40,000 to replace personal property. For renters, up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property.
  •  For businesses: Up to $2 million to repair or replace real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other assets that were damaged or destroyed (available to all businesses and private, nonprofit organizations).
  • Economic injury: Only for small businesses and most private nonprofit organizations suffering adverse financial impacts of the disaster (with or without property loss): Up to $2 million for working capital to help pay obligations until normal operations resume.
  • There’s no obligation to accept a disaster loan, but survivors may miss out on the largest source of federal disaster recovery funds if they don’t submit an application. If survivors have not settled with their insurance agency, 

Applicants can apply online at SBA Disaster Assistance or, for additional assistance, call 800-659-2955 (TTY:800-877-8339). The deadline to submit an application is May 20. The SBA’s Virtual Disaster Loan Outreach Center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT weekdays or you may contact an SBA customer service representative via email at FOCWAssistance@sba.gov.