Community Outreach Teams On the Ground in Beaumont

Eleven teams of federal and state disaster recovery officials are visiting those areas in Texas hardest hit by Hurricane Rita.

Each team consists of five members: a Federal Emergency Management Agency

(FEMA) official; a State of Texas official; a FEMA community relations representative; a public assistance officer; and a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representative.

The teams contact local officials, assess damage, hand out information, and alert disaster recovery specialists of any special needs.

"We will be looking at demographics, language barriers, hygiene and debris issues and the needs and concerns of residents," said one team member. "We will be the eyes and ears in these areas for disaster recovery officials."

President George W. Bush on Saturday issued a major disaster declaration for nine Texas counties. The counties of Chambers, Galveston, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Newton, Orange and Tyler were designated for assistance to individuals, infrastructure and hazard mitigation. All 254 counties were granted federal assistance for debris removal and emergency protective measures.

Disaster assistance for individuals may include grants to help pay for temporary housing, minor home repair and other serious disaster related expenses, not covered by insurance or other sources. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also are available for residential and business losses not covered by insurance.

Individuals who sustained damages to their homes as a result of Hurricane Rita can call the FEMA toll-free number at 1-800-621-3362 to apply for disaster assistance. For those with hearing and speech impairment, TTY service is available at 1-800-462-7585. Register online at: