WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Twelve counties in tornado-ravaged western Tennessee have been designated eligible for federal assistance by the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under President Clinton's major disaster declaration issued for the state this morning.
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said the President ordered the aid immediately after reviewing the agency's analysis of the state's expedited request for federal disaster relief submitted earlier today. The declaration covers damage from severe storms, tornadoes and high winds that struck the state starting Sunday, Jan. 17.
"The President is very concerned about the tragic loss of life and suffering caused by these disastrous storms," said Witt, who accompanied Vice President Gore on a tour of the damaged area this morning. "His quick action helps ensure that assistance will be provided to all those in need as fast and efficiently as possible."
Following the declaration, Witt designated the counties of Carroll, Crockett, Decatur, Dickson, Hardeman, Haywood, Henderson, Lauderdale, Madison, Maury, Montgomery and Perry eligible for federal funding to supplement the recovery needs of affected residents and business owners. He said that damage surveys are continuing in other areas and more counties may be designated for aid based on the assessments.
The supplemental assistance, to be coordinated by FEMA, can include grants to help pay for temporary housing needs, minor home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also will be available for residential and business property losses not fully covered by insurance.
Under the declaration, federal funds also will be provided for affected local governments in the same 12 counties to pay 75 percent of the eligible cost for debris removal and emergency protective measures, and for approved projects that mitigate future disaster risks. Other assistance to local and state government agencies may be authorized after further damage assessments are completed.
Paul W. Fay, Jr., of FEMA's regional office in Atlanta, Ga., was named by Witt to coordinate the federal relief effort. Fay said that residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties may begin the disaster application process starting Wednesday, Jan. 20, by calling 1-800-462-9029, or 1-800-462-7585 (TDD) for the hearing and speech-impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CT) seven days a week until further notice.