DHS using 'honor system' to distribute flood assistance funds

By Jamel Major - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - As thousands of people flood the Department of Human Services office for emergency flood assistance, officials have an important warning for those who may trying to commit fraud.

"I would think twice about it," DHS spokesperson Eva Mosby said. "If I know I don't qualify, or know I don't have damage, because we will be investigating."

To get the $250 to $500 in cash, DHS is using an honor system.  Claimants must sign a declaration stating their home needs repairs, that their income doesn't exceed 130% of federal poverty guidelines.

Claimants also must register with FEMA.

"We're trying to get it out quicker - the quickest way," Mosby said. "There's probably not a better way to do it than an honor system."

However, Mosby added, the agency is prepared to deal with people who try to take advantage of the system.

"You can be prosecuted," she said. "You can be fined and imprisoned or both for giving false or misleading information."

It's an attempt to make sure that those who really need the assistance get it.

"We have not turned down anyone because of fraud," Mosby said. "We've turned down people because they didn't meet the qualifications."

And according to Mosby, there is definitely enough funding to go around.

"The federal government has not given us an 'x' number of budget, so it's open to us right now," she said.

Mosby said DHS flood assistance will be available until Thursday at 5:00 p.m.

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