RECOVERY ASSISTANCE FLOWS QUICKLY TO ARKANSANS AFTER JULY 8 DECLARATION
The spring storms and tornadoes that tore across Arkansas, plus the extensive flooding that caused so much further destruction, brought some 300 FEMA specialists to Arkansas in response to the May 2 presidential disaster declaration. Those specialists were still working in the state, many of them helping survivors apply for assistance, find temporary housing and begin home repairs, when tornadoes cut across Franklin, Johnson and Crawford counties in late May, leaving more devastation in their wake.
With specialists already in place throughout the state, we were able to respond immediately to Arkansans in need when President Obama issued a disaster declaration the afternoon of Friday, July 8. The declaration paved the way for assistance to eligible homeowners, renters and business owners in Franklin and Johnson counties, and for assistance to state agencies, local governments and certain nonprofit organizations in those two counties as well as Crawford County.
By Saturday morning — just 15 hours after the declaration — the state of Arkansas and FEMA had opened Disaster Assistance Centers in Ozark and Clarksville so survivors could register with FEMA and speak directly with experts from our agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration. In all, specialists at the assistance centers and the recovery centers that followed visited with nearly 470 visitors in just two weeks.
Also on Saturday, our Community Relations teams fanned out across disaster-affected neighborhoods in Franklin and Johnson counties to meet with survivors, let them know the assistance centers had opened and urged them to register. In part because of their efforts, nearly 350 area residents were registered with FEMA within 10 days of the declaration.
That same day, FEMA housing inspectors started visiting damaged and destroyed homes and reporting back with their findings so we could begin rushing assistance grants to eligible Arkansans. Indeed, within 22 hours of the disaster declaration, the first grant, totaling more than $23,000, went to an Arkansas homeowner — and the assistance grants from FEMA and the low-interest disaster loans from the SBA haven’t stopped flowing yet.
Today, more than $1.4 million in assistance for housing and other needs, and more than $350,000 in SBA loans have reached the individuals and families who are working so hard to repair and rebuild after the storms. Much credit goes to the survivors themselves who have taken charge of getting themselves and their families back to normal after the tragedy.
Meanwhile, our Public Assistance specialists are working closely with utility cooperatives and other applicants at the state and local levels to outline eligible projects aimed at making disaster-damaged communities whole again. To that end, FEMA’s 75 percent share will help reimburse applicants for the expenses they incurred in removing debris from public rights of way after the tornadoes and in repairing or replacing utility poles and lines that were damaged in the storms, among other things.
This has been a difficult time for many Arkansans affected by the May storms and tornadoes. We are working diligently with the state to get as many recovery dollars to eligible survivors as the law allows, and we urge those who haven’t yet registered with FEMA to do so right away. That’s the necessary first step to possible federal grants, since we must know who needs help in order to expedite the assistance process. Survivors can register until September 6 ...