EDINBURG — Individuals in Hidalgo and Cameron counties can begin to apply for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for damage stemming from the June flooding after President Donald Trump granted a federal disaster declaration Friday.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced the president’s decision in a news release Friday — more than two weeks after severe weather hit the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend. Abbott formally requested the aid last week during a visit to the Emergency Operations Center in Edinburg, where he received a briefing from local officials on the flooding and ongoing recovery efforts.
“I thank the President and his Administration for their swift response to aid Texans in the Rio Grande Valley as they continue to recover from these devastating floods,” the governor said in a prepared statement. “Going forward, the State of Texas will continue to work with local leaders to ensure the needs of those affected by the floods are being met.”
Local lawmakers repeatedly called on the president for help, with U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, being one of the most vocal. He wrote a series of letters to officials in Texas and Washington D.C. urging them to help, including two to Trump and FEMA Administrator William B. Long.
“I thank President Trump for approving our request, which will allow us to recover and rebuild,” Gonzalez said, urging residents to apply for assistance. “Our office stands ready to assist on Monday morning.”
His office can be reached by calling (956) 682-5545.
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who visited the hardest hit areas last week, also joined in thanking the president for his approval.
“I am committed to advocating for residents and we are ready to help RGV communities recover,” Bush said.
The president’s decision allows individuals in Cameron and Hidalgo counties to apply for aid at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling (800) 621-3362.
“Disaster assistance for homeowners and renters may include grants to help pay for rent, temporary housing and home repairs, as well as other serious disaster-related needs.” Hidalgo County officials said in a news release Friday. “The goal of the assistance is to repair the home to a safe and sanitary living or functioning condition.”
Once registered, residents can expect to receive an application from the Small Business Administration.
“It is important to fill out the application, whether a resident is interested in an SBA loan or not, to qualify for full FEMA benefits,” the county’s news release stated.
Once an application is submitted, applicants should remain vigilant of their phones, Hidalgo County Commissioner David Fuentes said.
“They have to answer the calls because if FEMA calls, and they don’t answer, the claim is declined,” he said. “They need to be very cognizant of that.”
Fuente’s Precinct 1 was one of the hardest hit areas.
“I think everywhere we look we see damage,” he said.
His office is working closely with the Hidalgo County Drainage District to make sure the area is better prepared as activity develops near the Gulf of Mexico.
“The drainage district and my precinct have been very active in trying to figure out where we can strategically put in pumps,” Fuentes said. “We have many of them already in place.”
He said he looked forward to helping his constituents recover, but lamented the amount of time it took to obtain the federal declaration.
“Unfortunately, it (took) a little longer than we wanted, but now it provides at least some assistance to individuals who were affected by the storms, and it will allow them to start the recovery,” he said. “We can’t take back the rain event, but we can assist them in getting back on their feet and getting back to normal.”