WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Federal disaster funds have been made available to supplement state and local recovery efforts for communities in central and northern Mississippi damaged by last month's Christmas storm, according to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said President Clinton authorized the assistance requested by the state under a major disaster declaration issued today. The declaration covers damage to public property from the severe winter storms, ice and freezing rain that lashed the area over the period of December 22-26.
Immediately after the President's action, Witt designated the following 33 counties eligible for aid to affected local governments: Attala, Bolivar, Calhoun, Carroll, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Clay, Grenada, Humphreys, Issaquena, Itawamba, Kemper, Leake, Lee, Leflore, Monroe, Montgomery, Neshoba, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Sharkey, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tishomingo, Union, Warren, Washington, Webster, Winston, Yalobusha and Yazoo.
Under the declaration, the federal funds will be provided to cover 75 percent of the eligible cost for debris removal, emergency services related to the storm, and restoring damaged public facilities. Funding also will be available to the state on a cost-shared basis for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks.
Witt indicated additional counties and other forms of federal assistance may be designated later if requested and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.
Michael J. Polny, of FEMA's regional office in Atlanta, Ga., was named by Witt to coordinate the federal relief effort. Polny said that procedures for requesting assistance will be explained at a series of applicant briefings at locations to be announced shortly in the affected areas.