For people living in areas hard-hit by any of the seemingly unending series of natural disasters, disaster assistance grants and disaster recovery grants have been top of mind. Wildfires in the West and Pacific Northwest along with massive hurricanes in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean. The human toll of these disasters has been in the hundreds and the economic costs has already reached tens of billions of dollars.
To facilitate recovery and help individuals, businesses and communities get back on their feet, various state and federal funding agencies are offering disaster assistance grants and disaster recovery grants.
If you have been impacted by a natural disaster and are interested in learning more about disaster assistance grants and disaster recovery grants that might be available to you, it is important that you understand the facts. This article will separate fact from fiction and help keep you from getting scammed in your search for disaster assistance grants or disaster recovery grants.
First, all the information you need to find and apply for disaster assistance grants and disaster recovery grants is publicly available at no cost. You do not need to pay for listings of government grants—you can search and apply for them yourself at no cost.
And despite what anyone might tell you, no government agency will ‘award’ you a grant for which you did not apply. This is a common grant scam that unfortunately, often occurs during times of crisis. This is the common scenario: You receive an official-sounding phone call, saying that you have been “approved for a grant from the federal government.” They usually say that you qualify for a grant because you paid your taxes on time or because you’re a woman, a senior citizen, a minority or something similar. Once you’re hooked, the telemarketer will move in for the kill and try and get your bank account information so they can deduct a processing fee of $199.00 to $249.00. Of course, the grant never materializes, you’re out the fee and it’s next to impossible to get your money back.
What the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says:
- Don’t ever pay any money for a “free” government grant. It’s not free if you must pay for it. Government agencies would never ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant that you have already been awarded – or to pay for a list of grant-making institutions. The names of agencies and foundations that award grants are available for free at any public library or on the Internet. The only official access point for all federal grant-making agencies is grants.gov.
- Never give your bank account information to someone you do not know. Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so that they can steal the money in the account. Always keep your bank account information confidential. Don’t share it unless you are familiar with the company and know why the information is necessary.
- Look-alikes aren’t the real thing. Just because the caller says he’s from the “Federal Grants Administration” or something similar, it doesn’t mean that he is. There is no such government agency.
- If you do receive such a call, you should file a complaint with the FTC. If you think you may have been a victim of a government grant scam, file a complaint with the FTC online on their website (ftc.gov) or call 1-877-382-4357.
Next, only use official government sites to search for information about available disaster assistance grants, disaster recovery grants or any other type of assistance that might be available. You can use Grants.gov to uncover all federal grant opportunities that might be available to you. When using Grants.gov, use the ‘advanced search’ function to filter grant opportunities by eligibility (e.g., individual, small business, etc.).
The Federal government has also established websites that serve as clearinghouses of information about legitimate disaster assistance or disaster recovery resources that might help you.
- Small Business Administration Disaster Recovery Offices: This website will guide you to local SBA Disaster Recover offices that offer counseling and financial help to those who are rebuilding their homes and businesses.
- DisasterAssistanc.gov: This website allows you to enter your address to learn more about the various types of assistance that might be available in your community.
Visit official government websites for information about state or local disaster assistance grants, disaster recovery grants or other support available in your state or community. Cities, counties and states all have official websites. Legitimate government websites typically end in .gov, so be wary of sites ending in .com, .biz, .co or others. For example, if you’re looking for information about disaster recovery resources in Miami-Dade County (Florida), you should start your search at http://www.miamidade.gov. The home page will contain updated links to local disaster recovery resources.
Should you find a grant, loan or other type of financial support instrument that might be suitable, you can apply for it yourself at no fee. Remember that legitimate government agencies will never charge an application fee or processing fee when applying for assistance.
When applying for assistance or support, be sure to carefully read the instructions and that you fully understand the application process and any applicable laws, regulations and requirements. Finally, it is important to understand that there are no guarantees that your application will be approved. To be approved, applications for assistance must meet all eligibility and application requirements.
If you are unsure about the eligibility and application requirements, you can always hire a qualified professional to assist with the process. However, you must remember that there are no guarantees of success—anyone who promises or guarantees success is lying. You can search for qualified grant writing professionals on www.grantprofessionals.org. You can also Contact me to discuss if I might be able to help you apply for disaster assistance grants or disaster recovery grants.