WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Federal disaster aid was made available today for families and businesses in 17 Tennessee counties victimized by tornadoes and other violent weather last week, according to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said the assistance was authorized under a major disaster declaration issued for the state by President Clinton. The declaration covers damage to private and public property from severe storms, tornadoes and flooding that hit the central and western parts of the state starting May 5.
Vice President Gore announced the action this morning in Linden, Tenn., following a tour of the damaged area with Witt and other federal, state and local officials.
The 17 counties designated by Witt for aid to stricken residents and business owners include Cheatham, Chester, Davidson, Decatur, Dickson, Hardeman, Hardin, Henderson, Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Lawrence, McNairy, Perry, Stewart, White and Williamson.
The assistance, to be coordinated by FEMA, can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, minor home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also will be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.
Additionally, Witt said federal funds will be provided for the state and affected local governments in the 17 designated counties to pay 75 percent of the eligible cost for debris removal, emergency services related to the disaster, and repairing or replacing damaged public facilities. The declaration also makes cost-shared funding available to the state for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks.
Witt indicated that damage surveys are continuing and additional counties may be designated for aid later based on the results of the assessments. He named Paul W. Fay, Jr., of FEMA's regional office in Atlanta, to coordinate the federal relief effort.
Fay said residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin the disaster application process by calling 1-800-462-9029, or 1-800-462-7585 (TDD) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will be available starting Thursday, May 13, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.