HARVEY RECOVERY RESOURCES
I have never been more proud to represent Galveston County than during these past several weeks. The great flood may have caused us to bend, but coming together with fortitude and friendship, we showed the world that we will not break. Throughout this disaster and the recovery afterward, I have witnessed the amazing resolve of friends and neighbors working together to overcome unprecedented challenges. I have also witnessed firsthand the dedication of our local officials, emergency responders, and countless citizen heroes. Our community will rebuild and rebound stronger than ever, and my office will continue to be of assistance every step of the way.
This newsletter is focused exclusively on the resources available to you as our recovery continues. Links are provided to various programs at all levels of government, each designed to assist in the recovery of your homes, businesses, and public services. Furthermore, I have included links to several local and private organizations dedicated to flood relief efforts in our community. Use these resources yourself, and please pass them on to friends and family who may benefit. As always, feel free to reach out to my office for more information at any time.
RESOURCES FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
FEMA urges individuals impacted by Hurricane Harvey to file for federal assistance now. 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. National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) claims are also made through the FEMA portal. For more information call 800-621-3362 or click here. FEMA teams are on the ground in Galveston County, and will be visiting homes affected by floodwaters over the days and weeks ahead.
U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
To apply for Small Business Adminstration disaster assistance, fill out the necessary tax/application documents, and submit for aid: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Information/ApplyOnline . Note that SBA also provides loans for small business owners to repair their primary residences, if the property is in a county with a disaster declaration.
· Business owners can borrow up to $2 million to cover any physical damage to the business property.
· Property owners can borrow up to $200,000 to cover repair and/or replacement of their primary residence.
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
The IRS has delayed the filing deadlines for individual and business tax returns through the end of 2017; thus, any filing due for the remainder of the year is automatically granted an extension through January of 2018. The IRS has also informed the public that they may claim a loss on their property for both the current and former tax years, and that deadlines for amending those filings have been extended accordingly. For additional information, visit https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-relief-for-victims-of-hurricane-harvey-in-texas.
RESOURCES FROM THE STATE GOVERNMENT
Last week, Governor Abbott established a Commission to manage localized recovery efforts across coastal Texas. As the appointed Commissioner for this project, Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp was given full authority to coordinate between local governments and all agencies of the state. The Commissioner and the Governor have traveled throughout the affected counties, and have begun the Commission’s operations in each of them. Projects are underway to restore damaged infrastructure, government services, and public utilities.
Texas Department of Insurance (TDI)
Call your insurance agent or company as soon as possible to report property damage. If you need information, have a complaint, or can't locate your agent or company, call TDI's Consumer Help Line at 1-800-252-3439. The Help Line is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is open on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
TDI has also provided these useful links:
· My home was damaged by Harvey: A quick guide on filing claims, deadlines, and resources.
· My car was flooded: Answers to common questions if your car is flooded.
· Get help in person: Visit a mobile unit location to get help filing a claim.
· Emergency adjusters: Information on the emergency adjuster application process. To apply, complete Parts I, II, and IX of the application. Fingerprints aren’t required. There is a $20 fee.
· Workers' compensation:Information for injured employees, health care providers, and workers’ comp carriers.
Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA)
TWIA is prepared to help policyholders affected by Harvey and would like to provide the following suggestions to help coastal residents recover as quickly as possible.
How do I file a claim with TWIA? TWIA policyholders that sustain windstorm damage can file claims by the following methods:
· Call TWIA’s 24-hour Claims Center at 800-788-8247.
· Visit their website. Click on "Get Started" to be directed to the Claims Center login webpage, and then click “New User Registration” to create your profile and password if filing online for the first time. Policyholders will need a policy number to register.
· Contact your agent.
What do I do when I return home?TWIA advises policyholders to concentrate on protecting their property once they return home and a claim has been filed. Make temporary or minor repairs to protect property from further damage. Follow these guidelines:
· Take photos of the damage and keep receipts and records of payment for any temporary repairs.
· Do not begin making permanent repairs until an assigned adjuster or representative has made contact and inspected the property (if applicable).
· Be wary of out-of-state contractors who show up at your door unexpectedly. Check with the Better Business Bureau for a history of complaints.
· Understand the local windstorm building code requirements for your area and contact the TDI Windstorm Inspections Program to schedule an inspection for applicable repairs.
Price Gouging - Texas Attorney General
The OAG has activated the Consumer Emergency Team. This office is designated to receive consumer complaints relating to any price gouging activity that citizens encounter. The team is also monitoring social media regarding this problem. The OAG has three teams of investigators dedicated to handling complaints. You can report price gouging and find more information on this issue: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/price-gouging
Driver License & Vehicle Registration
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) will provide a no-cost replacement DL or ID card for residents, provided they had a current Texas DL or ID card (replacement identification would normally cost $11). Customers living in the affected counties are encouraged to bring whatever identity and residency documentation they have in their possession. Eligible cardholders will need to visit a driver license office in person to obtain a free Texas DL or ID replacement.
Please note: DPS driver license offices have been impacted by flooding as well, please check the website prior to visiting an office to ensure it is open.
Governor Abbott has ordered the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) to suspend requirements for vehicle titling and registration for the next 45 days in the 58 counties listed in his disaster declaration. Vehicle titling and registration expirations are being suspended in order to relieve that burden upon Texans. Law enforcement will not issue citations for expired registration in affected counties until October 16, 2017.
Occupational Licensing & Regulation
Dozens of occupations licensed and regulated by the State of Texas have had their respective rules and deadlines for certification/licensure and re-certification/re-licensure delayed by proclamation of the Governor. If you are a licensed individual, check with the agency responsible for your license to determine how these extensions will affect you. Each agency is also working to directly notify each licensee of these measures.
The State Bar of Texas has established a legal aid hotline here. Individuals affected by Harvey. Those affected may reach out to volunteer attorneys to discuss legal issues they may face as a result of the storm, or for other issues they face while they are in recovery. In addition to these services, the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals have issued a joint order relaxing statutory and rule-based deadlines for civil and criminal cases due to delays caused by the storm. If you have a case ongoing, or were preparing for a case prior to the storm, check with your attorney or the applicable court clerk for details on how your case may be affected.
Information for individuals currently unemployed because of the storm, because their business has ceased operations, because they’ve been forced to relocate, or because their time must be spent restoring their own homes, may call 800-939-6631 or click here.
Health & Human Services
The Texas Health & Human Services Commission is assisting members of its various programs with additional benefits and real-time assistance. If you or loved ones participate in any program, including WIC, Medicaid, CHIP, Nursing Home Care, or behavioral health services, reach out to the Commission and find how you may benefit. Click here.
Replacing Lost or Damaged Documents (all levels of government)
As long as you already had a driver license or ID card, you can bring whatever identity and residency documentation they have to a driver's license office near you and get a replacement free of charge. For website links visit https://www.usa.gov/replace-vital-documents or call the numbers below:
· Social Security Card: Call 800-772-1213
· Birth and Death Certificates: Call 888-963-7111
· Texas Driver's License: Call 512-424-2600
· Bank Checks, ATM/Debit Cards, or Safe Deposit Boxes: Call 877-275-3342
· Credit Reports: Contact Equifax, Experian, or Transunion at 877-322-8228 or visit annualcreditreport.com
· Fraud Alerts or a Credit Freeze: Call 877-438-4338
· Medicare Cards: Call 800-772-1213
· U.S. Passport: Call 877-487-2778
· U.S. Savings Bonds: Call 844-284-2676
· Tax Returns: Call 800-829-1040
· Military Records: Call 866-272-6272
· SNAP Card: call the Lonestar helpdesk toll-free at 1-800-777-7328
· Naturalization Documents: Call 800-375-5283
· Replace a Texas Marriage Record or Certificate: 888-963-7111
RESOURCES FROM LOCAL ENTITIES AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR
Gutting & Mucking of Homes
Team Rubicon: A private non-profit entity, Team Rubicon is a Veteran-Led volunteer organization specializing in emergency recovery and rebuilding efforts. The team takes volunteers, who in turn deploy to storm-damaged areas to gut and muck buildings in preparation for rebuild. The organization has more information on their website: https://teamrubiconusa.org.
Texas Muck Map: Another non-profit coordinated effort, the Texas Muck Map is a data tool that pairs volunteers with victims needing gut and muck assistance. More information can be found at https://www.texasrescuemap.com/muckmap.
Local Relief Efforts
Various private organizations, clubs, churches, and civic groups are operating relief programs of their own. I have listed just a few of the public and private entities doing such work, and encourage you to join with any group you know and trust if you are in need of their services or if you wish to contribute time or resources to their cause.
City of Dickinson Harvey Relief Fund. (ACCEPTING DONATIONS)
Dickinson ISD Education Foundation (ACCEPTING DONATIONS)
Dickinson ISD Amazon Wish List (school supplies – will be shipped directly to DISD)
City of Hitchcock Harvey Relief Fund. (ACCEPTING DONATIONS)
Hitchcock ISD Education Foundation. (ACCEPTING DONATIONS)
Collecting school supplies at Texas First Bank, Hitchcock.
CCISD Cares Distribution Center. (ACCEPTING DONATIONS)
League City Donation Distribution Center
Old Kroger Store
190 Gulf Freeway, League City
Friendswood ISD Education Foundation – Employees Relief Fund (ACCEPTING DONATIONS)
Friendswood Call Center - Accepting calls for assistance and offers to help with cleanup, etc.
Friendswood Donation Distribution Center
First Baptist Church
209 S. Friendswood Drive, Friendswood
Santa Fe ISD Education Foundation – Employees Relief Fund (ACCEPTING DONATIONS)
First Baptist Church of Alta Loma – Assistance, Cleanup Teams, and Distribution Center (ACCEPTING DONATIONS)
Visit the church, or call: (828) 434-8557 or(346) 208-3774
Galveston County Food Bank. (ACCEPTING DONATIONS)
United Way Galveston County Mainland - Harvey Relief Fund. (ACCEPTING DONATIONS)
Galveston County Health District – Animal Resource Center. (ACCEPTING DONATIONS - additional regional animal shelters noted on website)
Galveston County Health District – Public Health Phone Bank & Resources.
Or call: 409-938-7221
Texas Business Hotline
In addition to the assistance available through the SBA, the Texas Association of Business has established a hotline to provide assistance and resources to all business owners affected by the storm at http://www.txbiz.org/hurricane-relief/ or 512-637-7714.
Texas Farm Bureau – Farm & Ranch Relief
The Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) operates a relief program for families and businesses engaged in livestock and agriculture production, offering relief to those who were impacted by high winds and flood waters. From the cotton fields of the Coastal Bend to the rice fields of the Upper Gulf Coast to cattle ranches across the region, those that produce food and fiber for all of us were hit with billions of dollars in product loss. More information on how to help those you know in these industries may be found here: http://texasfarmbureau.org/texas-farm-bureau-hurricane-harvey-relief-effort/. TFB may also connect individuals with the feed and hay exchange or State of Texas Agriculture Relief Fund (STAR Fund) at the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA), or additional livestock and agriculture aid services provided by the Texas A&M AgriLife program.
As Texas rebuilds, our friends in Florida begin their recovery from the destructive force of Hurricane Irma, a powerful storm that has already done incredible damage to the American territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Governor Abbott has reached out to his counterparts, and the president has granted emergency response requests from Governors Scott (FL), Rosselló (PR), and Mapp (USVI). Just as our fellow Americans in these jurisdictions offered prayer and aid to us during Harvey, we offer the same to them now.