Monthly Archives: May 2016

Harris County Releases Emergency Preparedness App

AppA free app  is available for download on iTunes and Google Play as ReadyHarris. For more information on how to prepare for severe weather and other disasters download the app or visit www.readyharris.org.

The ReadyHarris app delivers real time weather alerts, hosts a step-by-step guide to building a personalized family disaster plan, offers survival tip sheets, maps evacuation routes and locates local emergency services. The app is available in both English and Spanish.

“People depend on information to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters,” added Emmett. “We want to make sure our community has the best available emergency information at all times, as easily as possible.”

A “Need to Know” section offers quick tips on:

  • Hurricanes
  • Flooding
  • Tornadoes
  • Wildfires
  • Winter Storms
  • Thunderstorms
  • Functional Needs
  • Pet Preparedness
  • And More

FEMA, State Grants Will Not Affect Social Security or Other Benefits

Texans affected by the flooding in April will not lose Social Security benefits, pay additional taxes, or give up income-based benefit programs if they accept federal or state disaster aid.

This includes homeowners, renters and businesses in Austin, Colorado, Fayette, Fort Bend, Grimes, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, Parker, San Jacinto, Waller and Wharton counties who register for disaster assistance.

In most cases, the Social Security Administration does not count federal or state disaster aid as income, according to recovery officials from the state of Texas and FEMA.

A few questions that often come up following a federal disaster declaration are:

FEMA Grants

Question: I’m between 62 and 65 years of age, and have chosen to receive Social Security benefits. If my income is more than a certain amount each year, I must reimburse a portion of my Social Security payment. Will FEMA grants add to my income and require me to repay Social Security?

Answer: No. FEMA grants for housing and other disaster assistance are not counted as income.

Taxes

Question: I’m over 65, but if I earn more than a certain amount, I must pay tax on my Social Security income. Will FEMA grants boost my income and require me to pay tax on my Social Security income?

Answer: No. The IRS does not count FEMA grants for housing and other disaster assistance as income.

Other Assistance

Question: Will receiving a grant cause my income to increase to the point that I am no longer eligible for Medicaid, welfare assistance or food stamps?

Answer: No. Grants for housing and other disaster assistance are not counted as income in determining eligibility for income-tested benefit programs that the U.S. government funds.

Texans can register online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by phone at 800-621-3362 (FEMA). Persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY may call 800-462-7585. Applicants who use 711 or Video Relay Service may also call 800-621-3362.

The toll-free numbers are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Multilingual operators are available.

Federal Disaster Assistance Includes Right of Appeal

Federal Disaster Assistance Includes Right of Appeal | FEMA.gov

Not every Texas resident who registered for federal disaster assistance following the April tornadoes and flooding will qualify for aid. However, an appeal process can ensure those affected by the storms will receive all aid for which they are legally eligible.

Eight counties are designated for assistance for the April 17-24 storms: Austin, Colorado, Fayette, Grimes, Harris, Parker, Waller and Wharton.

Applicants from those counties have 60 days from the date on FEMA’s decision letter to file their appeal. The FEMA letter describes the amount and type of assistance being offered.

To appeal FEMA’s decision, write a letter explaining why the amount or type of assistance authorized is not correct. The appeal should include any documentation that supports the claim.

The letter should also include:

  • applicant’s full name
  • applicant’s registration number on all pages
  • the FEMA disaster declaration number on all pages
  • signature of the applicant.

The letter must be signed, dated and mailed to:

FEMA

National Processing Service Center

P.O. Box 10055

Hyattsville, MD 20782-7055

Letters may also be faxed to 800-827-8112 with a cover sheet marked: Attention – FEMA or uploaded to the applicant’s account on DisasterAssistance.gov.

Federal Disaster Assistance Includes Right of Appeal | FEMA.gov

Additional information is available on pages 9-10 of the FEMA booklet, “Help after a Disaster: Applicant’s Guide to the Individuals & Households Program.” This free booklet is available in multilingual formats as a PDF to download at fema.gov/help-after-disaster.

Texans can register online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by phone at 800-621-3362 (FEMA) or TTY 800-462-7585. Applicants who use 711 or Video Relay Service may call 800-621-3362. Multilingual operators are available. The toll-free numbers are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.

Lone Star Legal Aide Q & A on Renter/Landlord Rights

Lone Star Legal AidIf you are finding yourself in limbo as a renter after the flood, you may find this advice helpful from Lone Star Legal Aide.

Can I get out of my lease if my home is damagedIf your lease says you can or if you cannot live in any part of your rented home because of damage, you can cancel the lease.

If you cannot live in any part of your rental unit, you must give your landlord written notice that you are canceling your lease.

You should also ask in writing for a refund of your security deposit and any pre-paid rent from your landlord. 

You must give your new address to your landlord in writing to receive any refund.

Does my landlord have to lower my rent if my home is damaged?

No. You cannot reduce your rent unless your landlord agrees or your lease gives you that right. Talk to your landlord and work out a deal. If you cannot, then you have the right to file a lawsuit and seek a court order reducing your rent.

What do I do if I lost my job because of the disaster and can’t pay rent?

If you do not pay rent your landlord can give you a notice to move. Your landlord may later file an eviction case against you. If your rent is subsidized by the government, you are entitled to have your part of the rent reduced. You should contact the agency that helps you with your rent to get a reduction.

Can my landlord make me move immediately if I can live in my home?

No. A landlord can only make you move by giving you a notice telling you to get out by a certain date and then filing a lawsuit after that date. You cannot be evicted without reason.

If your lease is expired, your landlord may be able to force you to move by giving you a 30-day notice.

If your landlord locks you out and refuses to give you a key, contact your local justice of the peace. The justice of the peace may order your landlord to immediately unlock your door by signing a “writ of re-entry.”

Can my landlord make me move so they can make repairs?

If you can still live in the home, you do not have to move until the lease is over. If you have a written lease, it may cover this situation. If not, your landlord can only make you move if your home is not safe to live in. The landlord can move you temporarily while making extensive repairs, but must move you back if your lease is not over.

 

What do I do if I am served with an eviction lawsuit?

Carefully read the papers and be sure to show up to tell your side of the story.  You have the right to represent yourself. You also can call Lone Star Legal Aid for information or to represent you if you qualify. In some types of eviction cases you can take a friend to help.  You have the right to appeal even if you lose in Justice of the Peace Court.

What do I do if my landlord does not refund my security deposit or pre-paid rent?

Wait until 30 days after you gave the landlord your new address in writing. Then you can contact legal aid for help.

 

For more information contact Lone Star Legal Aide: 1-800-733-8394