San Antonio residents left with plumbing damage after last week’s freeze have several options to seek aid for repairs.
In the wake of the winter storm, local elected officials have scrambled to divert funding toward programs run by the City, Bexar County, and San Antonio Water System. Federal resources are also available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Here are some options for those seeking help:
Federal and local officials say properties owners should start by filing a claim with their insurance provider, if they have insurance.
Claims are skyrocketing across the state, with one insurance company spokesman telling the San Antonio Report this week that the storm will be the “largest non-hurricane insurance event in the history of Texas.” San Antonio-based USAA alone reported more than 30,000 claims related to the freeze across its customer base.
The Texas Department of Insurance offers tips and a helpline to assist people filing claims.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Property owners who don’t have insurance or whose benefits won’t cover all the damage to their home or business can apply for FEMA disaster aid. By law, FEMA funding can’t duplicate benefits already being paid by insurance.
FEMA has already approved more than $4.5 million mostly in housing assistance for damage caused by the winter storm. Of this, more than $4 million is for housing assistance.
Property owners should start cleaning up right away, according to FEMA. The agency says to take photos to document the damage and to keep all receipts related to cleanup and repair.
San Antonio Community Pipe Repair fund
On Wednesday, City and San Antonio Water System staff began taking applications for San Antonio’s Community Pipe Repair fund to help fix homeowners’ serious pipe damage. Those interested can apply online or call 311 and press 5 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The fund, started by Mayor Ron Nirenberg and administered by the San Antonio Area Foundation and SAWS, has accrued nearly $450,000 in donations as of Wednesday morning. It’s meant to fill in the gaps left by FEMA and help those without insurance.
To qualify, applicants must be owners or renters of a single-family home that was valued at $140,000 or less in the 2019 Bexar County tax appraisal. Those with higher home values can still qualify if their total household income is at or below 140% of the federal poverty line.
The fund generally covers pipes that sustained severe enough damage from the freeze to require shutting off water to the entire house. These include pipes under pier-and-beam homes, pipes connected to water heaters, outdoor faucets, pipes inside walls, and main supply lines to the home.
The fund does not cover repair to irrigation systems, pool plumbing and pumps, or dripping faucets and shower heads that still allow safe access to water. It won’t cover replacements of water heaters, bringing water heater installations up to local code, or fixing leaking toilets that still allow safe flushing.
Those who qualify can either have a SAWS-contracted plumber do the work or receive a rebate and choose a plumber of their own. Renters can also apply, though the property owner must agree to the terms of the program and sign a waiver.
Those who provide an email address in the application should get a response in three business days, according to SAWS. Those who leave only phone numbers will get a response in five business days.
Bexar County Plumbing Assistance Program
On Tuesday, Bexar County commissioners approved the program proposed by Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores (Pct. 1). It allocates $5 million in County funding for reimbursements for residents who need pipe repairs.
The funds will go to people living outside of the San Antonio city limits and to households who fall at or below 80% of the area median income.
County officials are still setting up the program and have not yet announced when they’ll begin accepting applications.
Small Business Administration
Home and business owners can also apply for low-interest loans to repair their properties or cope with storm-related financial woes through the Small Business Administration’s Disaster Loan Assistance program.
The program includes business loans to repair or replace storm-damaged homes and equipment. Businesses of any size and private, nonprofit entities are eligible. A similar loan can help homeowners and renters fix or replace homes and other property, including vehicles.
The SBA also offers loans for small businesses and nonprofits to pay their bills in the aftermath of the storm.
Interest rates range from 1.25%-6%, depending on the type of loan and whether the applicant can borrow money elsewhere. Applicants must file by April 20 for physical damage loans and Nov. 19 for economic injury loans.