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Wildfire Assistance: $36 Million And Counting, For Now

Photo by KUT News.
Photo by KUT News.

As the deadline to apply for federal wildfire disaster aid approaches, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)  is sharing some statistics that underscore the fires’ impact: The disbursement of some $36 million in wildfire aid, including $13.2 million in grants, and $19 million in low-interest “disaster loans.” And the agency is urging anyone who hasn’t yet filed a claim to do so before Friday.

FEMA public information officer Bob Howard says the agency’s grants have gone to different needs: $10.7 million to rental assistance and grants to rebuild homes, and $2.5 million to cover lost personal property, medical care, and even funeral expenses.

The agency has also spent some $78,000 in disaster unemployment assistance.

An additional $19 million in low interest disaster loans, provided by the Small Business Administration, have been made available to homeowners, renters and businesses; Howard calls them “a great tool to help people on the road to recovery.”

But FEMA’s assistance is coming to a close. While over 4,000 Texans have registered with FEMA across 23 counties, Howard implores anyone who might need assistance – but hasn’t yet registered for it – to do so now. “This is a hard deadline,” Howard says, “ so people who don’t register by this Friday won’t be able to register for disaster assistance … Register and find out if you’re eligible for assistance because once the deadline passes, you’re not going to be able to.”

Phone registration (1-800-621-3362) ends at 9 pm this Friday, January 6; registration on FEMA’s website ends Friday at midnight Central Time.

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.