Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo urges Imelda-affected residents to apply for FEMA assistance

A resident walks two puppies to safety in the Heights.

A resident walks two puppies to safety in the Heights.

Following a presidential declaration of disaster Oct. 4, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo urged those affected by Tropical Storm Imelda to apply for individual assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency as soon as possible.

Hidalgo said Harris County residents qualify for individual assistance through FEMA if they live in a disaster-declared county, such as Harris County, and if their primary residence was affected by the flooding. Assistance provided through FEMA includes repair to damaged residences, help with temporary housing, legal aid and casework support, among other programs, Hidalgo said.

“I don’t want a minute to go by without folks applying for that assistance, calling FEMA and signing up, because that is free aid that people who were affected by the Imelda flood can receive,” Hidalgo said during the Oct. 8 Harris County Commissioners Court meeting.

However, Hidalgo said the assistance is need-based and final determinations are made by FEMA. While some of the assistance programs are still being set up, Hidalgo said it is important for residents to apply earlier to get in the pipeline for assistance that will be available in the future.

Residents can apply for FEMA assistance by visiting www.readyharris.org, calling 800-621-3362 or by calling The United Way of Greater Houston’s 211 line.

In addition to federal assistance, Hidalgo said the county is still providing assistance locally through the recovery center system Harris County established shortly after Imelda hit the Greater Houston area.

“Our Community Services Department has spent so far $85,000, which has gone to help 274 households with either utility assistance or housing assistance,” she said. “We were also able to use [$5 million from] the public contingency fund to pick up debris quickly and to pay our employees who are working overtime.”

Hidalgo also urged those who were not affected by Imelda to continue supporting the Imelda Assistance Fund, which is run through the Greater Houston Community Foundation and has board members appointed by each member of commissioners court.

“We’re keeping track of every dollar and we have so far raised almost half a million dollars—we can absolutely do more and we need folks to step up and participate and help everybody in the community that continues to be affected,” Hidalgo said. “We’re continuing to do everything we can to mitigate flood damage in the future.”

Hidalgo also provided an update on countywide damage assessments following Imelda during the Oct. 8 meeting. As of Oct. 5, Hidalgo said a reported 954 homes and 42 businesses had flooded in unincorporated Harris County during Imelda plus another 1,661 homes and 24 businesses reported in the city of Houston.

Hidalgo said the county engineering department has conducted about 80% of necessary home inspections of flooded homes thus far.
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