The Belton Journal

Disaster Survivor Assistance Specialists from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have been actively engaging with homeowners and renters who suffered damages from two tornadoes that impacted the Bell County area on May 22.

FEMA media relations specialist Nikki Gaskins Campbell extended invitations to local media outlets to join a walk-along in the heavily impacted residential area in the Westfield subdivision of Temple.

Assistance specialists aimed to shed light on the recovery process following the signing of Emergency Disaster Declarations by state, counties, and cities.

These declarations empower FEMA to engage with individuals in Temple, gathering crucial information on the type of survival needs to begin their recovery efforts. Crews have been going door-to-door to meet the survivors.

“We want to meet the survivors where they are. We realize not everyone can come to us because they don’t have vehicles. They might have a medical condition, or any number of reasons they can’t get to us,” Campbell said. Furthermore, she explained that FEMA boots on the ground means working long hours for disaster specialists. 

After a disaster FEMA will typically walk door-to-door, to tell survivors where they can go to get help with the application process.

Disaster specialists in the area are authorized to collect personal information on the needs of the people they make contact with.

To assist survivors of the tornadoes, a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) was set up at Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Temple at 6608 W. Adams Ave.

FEMA staff members are available to guide individuals through the paperwork, answer questions, and provide any necessary support to ensure that applicants complete the forms correctly and efficiently.

FEMA’s efforts are focused on addressing the needs of survivors, particularly in terms of insurance coverage and property repairs.

By establishing a disaster recovery center and deploying crews to assess individual needs, FEMA aims to facilitate the recovery process and provide necessary assistance to those impacted by the tornado disaster.

The emphasis on coordination between FEMA, insurance companies, and the affected individuals highlights the importance of a comprehensive and integrated approach to disaster response.

Through collaborative efforts and engagement with the community, FEMA is striving to ensure a cohesive and effective recovery process for those affected in the Temple area.

As the recovery and rebuilding efforts continue, FEMA remains committed to supporting the residents and communities impacted by the disaster, underscoring the agency’s dedication to assisting in times of crisis and helping communities recover and thrive in the aftermath of natural disasters. Campbell said the disaster specialists will be in for the week or longer. 

Local residents emphasized that their primary challenge revolved around getting insurance adjusters to inspect their damaged properties promptly for necessary repairs. One of FEMA’s significant obstacles lies in providing assistance to homeowners who have yet to contact their insurance companies or receive information on repair coverage.

Campbell highlighted that FEMA must await details from insurance companies before dispersing survivor funds.

Notably, FEMA grants are not repayable, offering financial assistance without the need for recipients to return the funds.

In Bell County, FEMA is averaging contacts with 150 homes a day. FEMA assistance is typically focused on the short-term disbursement of relief funds.

Disaster assistance can’t make the survivor whole, but they have other partners such as the SBA involved in.

“FEMA is a piece of the puzzle. We are not the entire puzzle. It takes the state, local officials, community, and the non-profits, to work collectively together in disaster relief,” Campbell said.  

To date, FEMA has assisted more than 34,000 Texas households recovering from the flooding and storms across the state. They have paid about $68.5 million to disaster survivors.

According to Campbell, the first line of defense after a man-made or natural disaster should be with your insurance to file damages with them.

“We need to know what insurance is going to cover before we can begin to see what your assistance is going to be. FEMA is grant money that doesn’t have to be repaid. The amount of money given for relief is not income dependent, instead it depends on what your needs are. The average grant is between $5,000-8,000,” she said. “The maximum grant money is about $42,000. The grants aren’t meant to replace or repair your home, that’s why it takes a lot of stakeholders, Campbell told the Belton Journal.

Where FEMA can’t fill in all the gaps, that’s where they can refer you to one of their many partners. 

To apply for disaster relief, a FEMA app can be downloaded. Information can also be obtained by calling (800) 621-3362 or visit



Above Left: Disaster Survivor Specialist Lloyd Whitfield and his partner provide a homeowner with assistance to obtain FEMA grant funds. Above Right: Total destruction of homes in hardest hit aea of Temple.