Obama approves federal disaster grants for 12 Texas counties

Jasleen Shokar

President Obama accepted Governor Abbott's request for Individual Assistance for 12 Texas counties because of heavy rainfall and flooding in the past month.

The counties included in this declaration are Austin, Brazoria, Brazos, Fort Bend, Grimes, Hidalgo, Hood, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Travis, Waller and Washington.

With the Individual Assistance program, residents can now obtain grants from the federal government to use for temporary housing, home repairs and loans for uninsured property losses.

"I would like to thank the President and FEMA for their quick response in granting assistance to those affected by the severe weather and flooding of the past couple weeks," Governor Abbott said in a press release.

Abbott said Texans have always risen to meet the challenges they face and this time will be no different.

“With this latest development Texans can now begin the process of rebuilding their lives after experiencing some of the worst flooding in recent history," Abbott said.

Since the floods, a watercraft ban has been instituted on Lake Austin, Lady Bird Lake and the Colorado River. The ban is set to be lifted noon Thursday.

“Each waterway is evaluated individually every time we have a flood event,” said Michelle Tanzola, Public Information and Marketing Manager for the Austin Fire Department.

The declaration also approved funding for local and state response costs and sheltering.

Bristel Minsker, communications director for the Central and South Texas American Red Cross said the organization began relief efforts immediately following the flooding.

“Generally, when a disaster like that strikes, the first thing we do is mass care,” Minsker said. “Our priorities are sheltering and feeding people.”

The Red Cross also set up assistance centers and worked with other agencies and the community at large.

“We help coordinate a center where people can sit down with a Red Cross caseworker and open cases,” Minsker said.

Minsker said they provide some financial assistance to people who demonstrate an immediate need, and caseworkers follow up with each case.

“We have case workers that stay with them and make sure they get matched up to the correct agency,” Minsker said. “We walk them through the recovery process and we work with our partners at the city and county level.”

Minsker said they are still following up on open cases and are still opening new cases.

“We’re still getting phone calls from people that, for whatever reason, didn't know assistance was needed at the time,” Minsker said. “We will stay with them until they don’t need us anymore.”