Computer centers open to help people apply for FEMA aid

Some people are still living without running water and don't have the money to repair broken pipes after the winter storm.

So many people have lost their jobs and simply don't have the money to make repairs, or don't have computers or internet access to apply for FEMA aid.

Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia is opening centers to help people apply for FEMA aid, in both English and Spanish.

"He was without water for 15 days," Hector Gomez told us through a translator. 

15 days without water after the pipes burst at their home. 

"He basically went around and got water. He would take a shower with a bucket over his head. There was no water," said the translator.

Gomez and his wife say their only income right now is from unemployment benefits, and they don't have the hundreds of dollars needed for repairs.   

"He said he had to come here because he doesn't have a computer at home and says he doesn't know how to use a computer. So coming here was a big help," the translator said.

The Gomezes are among dozens of people who came to the East Harris Activity Center for help applying for FEMA aid.

How to apply for FEMA assistance

FEMA is officially taking applications for disaster assistance for homeowners and renters affected by the winter storm in 77 Texas counties. 

"Folks already struggling may not have jobs. They're already struggling with food insecurity. They're already struggling with their homes. This just adds to it," said Frida Villalobos, Communications Director for Garcia's office.  

FEMA officials tell us when applications are denied, it's often because they simply don't contain enough information, such as photos and details of the damage.

"Some information, take pictures of the damage at home. We'll help them upload that here. It's very simple. But for someone who doesn't do this on a regular basis, it can be a little intimidating," said Commissioner Garcia.

Garcia's staff urges applicants to bring a list of their damages, receipts for repairs, their address, phone number, and email address.  If they have insurance, they should bring proof of a denial or that it won't cover the full cost of the repair.

Applicants are also encouraged to provide a bank account and routing number where funds can be direct-deposited for faster delivery.

FEMA encourages denied storm damage applicants to provide more information

We're hearing from many people who say they're frustrated their FEMA applications have been turned down despite damage to their homes or having no running water.  We took your questions to FEMA. 

"He's hopeful he'll be able to get some help because right now the only income he's receiving is unemployment. So money is tight. He hopes he's able to get some help," said the translator for Gomez. 

We've heard some people are worried about not checking the correct cause of damage on the form. A FEMA spokesperson says applicants should check "snow/ice" as the cause of damage.

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We've also heard some people are not applying because they were denied FEMA aid after Hurricane Harvey.

But FEMA says this is a different disaster. People in need should apply and not assume they'll be denied again. 

Commissioner Garcia is opening FEMA application centers Friday and Saturday as well from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
•    Friday, March 5th at YET Center (10919 Bentley St., Houston, TX 77093)
•    Saturday, March 6th San Jacinto Community Center (604 Highland Woods Dr., Highlands, TX 77562)

FEMA Applications are available at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling (800) 621-3362 or (800) 462-7585.