Press Release: Partnerships and Progress
02 OCT 2017

People Helping People

Press Release from FEMA

AUSTIN, Texas – More than one million hours of volunteer labor, millions in cash donations and countless charitable efforts form the backbone of recovery from Hurricane Harvey more than a month after the Category 4 storm struck Texas.

To meet the immediate needs of survivors, volunteers from all over the country continue to muck and gut homes, provide emotional and spiritual care, repair and rebuild homes, and perform other much-needed disaster work. Hundreds of voluntary organizations, in coordination with the Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD), have organized those efforts.

The whole-community approach to recovery simply involves people helping people. That’s important when the needs go beyond the scope of assistance available from city, state and federal partners.

“Long-term recovery groups draw out money, material and muscle,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Kevin Hannes of FEMA.  “The volunteers who make up these groups will help guide survivors as they leverage resources and take charge of their own recovery.”

With support and guidance from all levels of government, long-term recovery groups are standing up and standing strong in communities affected by Harvey. So far, 13 long-term recovery groups have formed along the coast and in southeast and central Texas. More groups are under development.

Voluntary Agency Liaisons (VALs) offer technical assistance to each group as they focus on meeting the unmet needs in their community and managing large numbers of volunteers and donations. For instance, VALs coordinated the delivery of 12,000 tarps, which agency partners will install as temporary covers on Harvey-damaged homes. Through VALs, voluntary agency partners are providing workshops for first responders to help them manage their stress and build resilience.

Volunteers who want to help may register online at Texas VOAD: voad.communityos.org/disaster-volunteer-registration. To date, VOAD teams have clocked 1,006,330 volunteer hours in Texas.

Those who wish to support the long-term effort of rebuilding Texas communities devastated by Harvey may make a monetary donation to the Rebuild Texas Fund.

The whole community of partners offer a wide range of help for survivors. Examples include:

  • If families need a temporary place to stay, they can download the FEMA mobile app and look under Disaster Resources for a list of nearby shelters. Or call 800-REDCROSS (733-2767). The American Red Cross provides food, comfort and shelter to those who need it—without regard to race, religion or citizenship status.
  • If survivors need help cleaning up their flood-damaged home, they can call the Cleanup Assistance Hotline: (844) 965-1386. This service will connect Texas survivors with volunteer groups. To date, more than 160 groups have logged more than 20,000 requests and completed 13,000 requests for assistance, mainly to muck-and-gut homes.
  • If survivors are experiencing emotional distress related to Harvey, they can call the Disaster Distress Helpline any time day or night at (800) 985-5990, TTY (800) 846-8517. Or text TalkWithUs (Spanish-speakers text: Hablanos) to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
  • If survivors have lost work or are out of work due to Harvey, they may be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance(DUA). More than 5,300 DUA claims have been paid to people not normally eligible for unemployment benefits—such as farm workers and independent contractors. For more information or to apply, call 800-939-6631 or 800-735-2989 (TTY).
  • If survivors sustained losses from Harvey and live in one of the 39 designated counties, they may be eligible for disaster assistance. Disaster grants help pay for temporary rental assistance, emergency home repairs and serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance. Apply online at DisasterAssistance.gov. More than $780 million in grants for homeowners and renters have been approved.
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest disaster loans to businesses of all sizes (including landlords), nonprofits, homeowners and renters to cover uninsured/uncompensated losses from Harvey. Apply online at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. To date, the SBA has approved more than $626 million in loans.
  • To help flood-insured homeowners whose homes sustained damage from Harvey, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has made it easier to get advance payments quicker. Those with questions about their policies should contact their insurance agent. To date, NFIP has paid more than $1 billion in payments to Texas policyholders.

For more information on Hurricane Harvey and Texas recovery, visit the Hurricane Harvey disaster web page, the FEMA Harvey Facebook page, the @FEMARegion6 Twitter account, and the Texas Division of Emergency Management website.