WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today that President Clinton has approved the use of federal disaster funds for Washington State to supplement relief efforts for families in the city of Kelso endangered by an unstable landslide that began last March.
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said the President's major disaster declaration issued this afternoon authorizes the agency to provide assistance to stricken residents that can include grants to help pay for temporary housing needs, emergency home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also are currently available to cover residential and personal property losses not fully compensated by insurance.
Additionally, the state and affected local governments are eligible to apply for funding to pay 75 percent of the approved costs for debris removal, emergency services related to the landslide, and repairing or replacing damaged public facilities, such as road and utilities systems. Federal funds also will be available to the state on a cost-share basis for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks.
The President's action follows a FEMA recommendation to grant the assistance after a joint federal and state site reinspection found additional homes had been damaged or destroyed, as well as significant impacts to the area's infrastructure and costs for required emergency services that were not previously considered. An independent engineering study commissioned by the city also indicated that the landslide, triggered by excessive precipitation over the past several years, is unlikely to be stabilized.
Nellie Ann Mills, of FEMA's regional office in Bothell, Wash., was named by Witt to coordinate federal relief operations in the stricken area. Mills said that affected residents can begin the disaster application process on Saturday, October 17, by calling 1-800-462-9029, or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone service will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (PT) seven days a week until further notice.