Snow in Texas. When Snow Storm Uri hit Texas mid February, that week was like a moment in the Twilight Zone. It was all fun and games at first. After all, we haven’t seen snow like this since 1937. What, at first, felt like a winter wonderland soon became endless days without heat and water for many. It’s estimated that there will be over 750,000 claims in damages due to the aftermath of Uri. If you were one of the people negatively affected by the storm, here are some resources that you can use.
You have the right to request for repairs. If the damage on the property threatens your safety, you can request repairs from your landlord either by 2 written requests or 1 Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested (CMRRR). If you are up to date on rent, you can make the request but, unfortunately, if you owe rent you may not have the right to request repairs. If you are behind on rent, you can find help here. Also, landlords cannot shut off utilities if you owe rent. Your landlord may or may not provide alternative housing during the repair process. You may choose to end the lease yourself (with written notice) and move somewhere else but be sure to leave a forwarding address for your security deposit. If you decide to contact legal aid over the issue, have a copy of your lease, documentation of the status of the rented property and damage, and evidence of submitting the written request or CMRRR.
If your home or property was damaged by the storm, inspect your property for damage and document it (and document everything really). Contact your insurance company (contact info can be found in the declarations page of your policy or bills from the company) and do any repairs that prevent your home or property from more damage. Keep any receipts from any of the out of pocket expenses that occur during the process. As soon as you can, find a qualified contractor and get cost estimates. Be available for the adjustor from the insurance company to show them the damages, documentation, and to answer and ask questions. You can also ask the adjuster to double check places you might have missed and contact them if any damages were missed post inspection. If you have any problems with your claim, you need to contact the company and if necessary you can contact OPIC, TDI or your own licensed public adjuster.
For those without insurance, you will need to apply for FEMA assistance. To receive assistance from FEMA, you will need to submit your application within 60 days after the declared disaster. The deadline to apply for FEMA assistance for recovery from this disaster is April 20, 2021. To apply, first make sure to take pictures of any and all damage that occurred due to the disaster. Then, fill out and submit the application at: https://www.disasterassistance.gov/. If you are in need of immediate assistance, Critical Needs Assistance from FEMA can be up to $500. In the initial FEMA application, a question asks if the applicant is in need of immediate assistance. The applicant must click YES for that question. No further documentation is required. If you have to do immediate repairs, DO NOT wait until you receive FEMA assistance to begin fixing your repairs. Just make sure you keep all documentation of the damages and repairs, this would be: photos, receipts, and even conversations – anything verifying what work was done at what time and at what cost.
Unfortunately, FEMA cannot reimburse you for food lost due to a power failure. However, there are a couple ways to replace food you may have lost. If you are a SNAP recipient, you can call 2-1-1 and ask about receiving replacement benefits for food lost or destroyed due to the severe winter weather. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission received federal approval to provide these replacement benefits, so you are absolutely entitled to claim them. Another way to receive food assistance is by taking advantage of food banks. The Central Texas Food Bank makes it easy to find where and when you can pick up food with their online map.
Legal Aid & Mental Health
Texas survived this disaster through community care and support. DO NOT be afraid to ask for help, no matter what it may be, because there are many community members ready to help. If you need assistance navigating ANY of these resources (because it can understandably be overwhelming), please contact Lone Star Legal Aid. This organization can help you navigate almost any struggle you may be facing due to the storm or pandemic. This winter storm could not have come at a worse time. With the pandemic still severely affecting our state and the normal stresses of life being amplified through these circumstances, we highly encourage you to seek help through the free mental health resources available to ACC students. You do not have to struggle through this alone.
For more resources available, please reference ACC’s Winter Relief Resource Document.