Texas Disaster Declaration opens door to federal aid for losses sustained during winter storms

cars on snowy road
Federal assistance is available to individuals and businesses in Texas who sustained damages during the winter storm. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)

Federal assistance is available to individuals and businesses in Texas who sustained damages during the winter storm. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)

Updated at 10:45 a.m. Feb. 25: The story has been updated to include additional counties approved for assistance, a new call center set up to collect damage information and a help center established to answer questions about the application process.

Individuals and businesses who sustained losses during the February 2021 winter storms are eligible for federal assistance, according to a Texas Disaster Declaration approved by President Joe Biden.

The declaration, signed Feb. 19 and updated days later, encompasses 108 counties and is meant to supplement state and local recovery efforts, according to a statement from president's office.

"Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster," according to the statement.

Disaster assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency is also available to eligible state and local governments as well as certain nonprofits "on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures and hazard mitigation measures statewide."


The winter storm that brought snow and extreme cold left millions without power, some for several days, and triggered water supply issues as frozen pipes burst in homes, businesses and schools.

People and businesses that sustained losses may apply for federal assistance at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362.

FEMA officials advised people to take photos of any damage from the storms and if water pipes have burst to work with a plumber and their insurance company on repairs. Those who apply for FEMA disaster assistance will need to provide insurance claim information, according to a release from FEMA.

A Disaster Distress Helpline has also been activated for people coping with stress from the winter storm. This toll-free, multilingual and confidential crisis support line is available 24/7. People may call or text 800-985-5990 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

The Texas Division of Emergency Management is also conducting a survey to assess damages from the storm. Click here for a link to the voluntary survey. State officials announced Feb. 25 that a new call center has been set up to help Texans with limited or no internet service fill out the damage survey. Calls to 844-844-3089 will be accepted from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.

Gov. Greg Abbott called the information collected through the damage survey as crucial.

"The information gleaned from the iSTAT will help us advocate for the support and assistance our communities need to recover from the winter storm," he said in a news release.

In addition, the U.S. Small Business Administration has set up centers to assist business owners as well as homeowners and renters in applying for help through the disaster loan program. Representatives can explain the application process and answer questions. Assistance is available between 7 a.m.-7 p.m. by calling 800-659-2955 or emailing focwassistance@sba.gov.

According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, 1,445 public water systems reported disruptions in service due to the weather, affecting nearly 14.4 million Texans in 190 counties. As of 10 a.m. Feb. 24, more than 2.2 million people were still under boil-water notices, according to the TCEQ. Click here for links to see which communities were still under boil-water notices and which ones have been cleared.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages about 90% of the electric grid in the state, resumed normal operations Feb. 19. More than 10,000 customers in Texas were still without power as of 10:40 a.m. Feb. 25, according to outage tracker poweroutage.us. Those outages are likely due to damages to local utility systems, according to ERCOT.

See the map below for counties included in the Texas Disaster Declaration.

By Valerie Wigglesworth
Valerie has been a journalist for more than 30 years. She is currently managing editor for DFW Metro for Community Impact Newspaper.


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