TEXAS COUNCIL for
DEVELOPMENTAL
DISABILITIES

Winter Storm URI Response and Recovery: Resources and Advocacy Opportunities


Federal Assistance

If you were impacted by Winter Storm Uri, federal assistance is available through FEMA to eligible people and families. The list below includes locally sponsored outreach events to help people apply for assistance. At these events, FEMA staff, including a disability integration advisor, will be available to help people with disabilities complete the application process.

If you are unable to attend one of these events, you can visit the FEMA website for Texas Severe Winter Storms to apply for assistance online and find more information.

TCDD Response

We hope that you, your families, and your neighbors and colleagues are safe. Due to severe winter weather and the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, our state endured an exceptionally challenging week. Though the worst of the storm has passed, the aftermath and road to recovery can be just as challenging. Our thoughts are with you as we recover together.

Approximately 3.4 million Texas residents (11.7%) have a disability, according to 2019 data from the Office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Last week, individuals with disabilities were forced to live without needed support, to risk dangerous travel conditions to reach hospital emergency rooms to access power for essential medical equipment, and to overcome many other obstacles. Whether it is hurricanes or snowstorms, it remains evident that Texas needs improvement in emergency preparedness and response for people with disabilities.

State leaders will spend the next weeks and months investigating the systems that worked last week, those that failed, and where gaps exist. The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) urges policymakers and all who work in service of the public to consider the disproportionate impact of emergencies such as Winter Storm Uri on Texans with disabilities and to take action to develop more inclusive and equitable emergency response policies and protocols. Whether it is COVID-19 vaccine distribution, or prioritized aid for people with disabilities who depend on electricity to power their health equipment, or mobility services that would transport Texans with disabilities to warming centers, leaders must prioritize the health and safety of individuals most in need.

TCDD, with its partners in the disability community, works to ensure that Texans with disabilities are fully included in their communities and exercise control over their own lives. It is our priority to ensure that Texans with disabilities have equal access to, and are proactively included in, using all community resources designed to maintain and improve individual and public health and safety, including during public health emergencies. Texans with disabilities deserve emergency planning that is responsive to their needs.

Even in these difficult times, we are reaffirmed in our belief that Texans are strong. We have been inspired by your acts of kindness as we’ve witnessed neighbors helping neighbors by offering rides to essential workers, sharing food and water, and even opening up homes to share warmth and shelter during a time of physical distancing.

Below, please find some ways you can take action to help Texans with disabilities, as well as some health and safety resources. Thank you for creating positive change in your communities.

How You Can Take Action

  • Contact your legislators to ask for the change you wish to see.
    • Information is available about current districts and members of the Texas Legislature, State Board of Education, and Texas delegation to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. To find out who represents you, visit Texas Legislature Online: Who Represents Me?
    • The Texas House Committees on State Affairs and Energy Resources will hold a joint public hearing at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, to consider the state’s response and changes necessary to avoid future power interruptions. Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to submit comments by the time of the meeting using this online form.
      • A live video broadcast of this hearing will be available online.

  • Connect with the Public Utilities Commission.
    • The Public Utilities Commission of Texas has a program for individuals who rely on electric devices to sustain life to register with the state in order to receive notifications and possible protections from interruptions or disconnections of electrical service. If someone in your household needs to apply for chronic or critical care status, please follow these instructions:
      • Download the Application for Chronic Condition or Critical Care Residential Customer Status. It is available in English (PDF) and Spanish (PDF). 
      • Bring a completed form to your physician. They will fill it out for you and fax it to your utility company.
      • Once your physician submits the form, your utility company will then confirm your chronic or critical care status.

  • Register for STEAR.
    • The State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry (STEAR) is a free registry that provides local emergency planners and emergency responders with additional information on needs in the community. Who should register? People with disabilities, people with limited mobility, people with communication barriers, people who require additional medical assistance, transportation assistance, or personal care assistance during an emergency event.

  • Complete the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) damage assessment survey.
    • Help identify damages across Texas caused by the recent winter storms. The survey will help provide data to FEMA and highlight the need for federal assistance for individuals.
  • Contact your local media professionals to share your experience.
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  • Advocate for people with disabilities in your networks and on social media.
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  • Support nonprofit organizations serving Texans with disabilities through donations and volunteerism.
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  • Know your neighbors and offer help to those in need through acts of kindness, big and small.

Resources

The Governor’s Office has put together a list of winter weather resources, which continues to be updated. The list includes information about FEMA disaster assistance, state warming centers, insurance assistance, and how you can get involved to help Texans in need.

Explore Disability Rights Texas’ Winter Storm Recovery Resource page.

The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies operates a disaster hotline, which you can contact any time at 1-800-626-4959.

Visit the TDEM website and select your region and county to find local information on where to find potable water, warming centers, and shelters.

Search Texas A&M University’s Directory of Community Resources for People with Disabilities to find resources and organizations by category and location, developed as part of Project REDD (Research and Education on Disability and Disaster).

On March 24, 2021, the FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination (ODIC) and our partners held a stakeholder event to learn about National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and the importance of including people with developmental disabilities in emergency preparedness, response, and recovery efforts. The agenda, speaker presentations, and related resources on the topic are now available.

Access ASL videos that provide information on the FEMA registration process: