As the community still recovers from the winter storm that hit Texas and the area last month, water has finally been restored to one of the last areas living without it.
Brook Hefner, spokeswoman for The Village at Meadowbend apartments in Temple, reported that the remainder of their apartments had finally seen their water restored on March 10. Residents had been living with city provided buckets of water and bottled water since the storm.
While water and power is back on for residents, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is still working through thousands of claims in the state.
Maria Figueroa, spokeswoman for FEMA, said as of March 4 the agency was dealing with more than $106 million in damages.
“You file a claim, you go through the grant process and then you get the money,” Figueroa said. “We don’t wait until the end to send you the money. People need to send in their information, so depending on how fast they send that information in that is how fast that claim gets processed.”
Figueroa said that while dealing with claims involving the winter storm have been somewhat similar to other emergencies, it has also been slightly unique as well.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Figueroa said the agency has had to do inspections of properties remotely through video.
Another unique aspect of this storm, Figueroa said, was that inspectors were used to water damage going from the ground up due to floods. The inspectors now had to examine water damage going from the top down as a result of pipes breaking.
Some of the common issues the agency has seen and has helped people with are reports of water, roof and electrical damage along with broken windows.
“This started last year, so the virtual inspections are not new,” Figueroa said. “But everything else is new because before you could go to a disaster recovery center and ask questions in person and submit documents in person. Now you can’t do that, everything has to go through the internet.”
There are several things the FEMA money cannot help residents with, Figueroa said. Some of these items include replacing lost groceries due to power outages, and paying utility bills and other damages that are being covered by insurance.
Since FEMA aid doesn’t cover everything, the agency did send out a list of other agencies and groups helping those affected by the storm.
Figueroa said the agency is tentatively allowing submission of damages until late April but has not broadcast that yet to prevent people from waiting until the last day.
“That is why we say to register immediately,” Figueroa said. “After you know that you have damage, just take a picture of your damage, and if you have repair receipts from anything you have repaired, just send it along with your application.”
Until the end of March, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients can still use their benefits to purchase hot foods and ready-to-eat meals at participating retailers.
Residents who are unemployed, along with those self-employed and now unable to work due to the winter storms, are able to get disaster unemployment assistance with the Texas Workforce Commission accepting applications in Bell County until March 26.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved more than $20 million in low-interest loans to help businesses and residents recover from the storm. Those interested can apply at https://bit.ly/3cgPkJC prior to the administration’s deadline on April 21.
FEMA said it is committed to helping those eligible, which include U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals and qualified aliens, which include asylum seekers and refugees.
The agency said other organizations such as the American Red Cross and United Way are helping those in need regardless of their citizenship status.
Some other local businesses and organizations are still dealing with water damage, such as the Salado United Methodist Church.
The church, which was open to residents as a warming shelter during the storm, saw flooding in its buildings and is still dealing with it.