WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Federal disaster aid was made available today for tornado victims in southwestern South Dakota under a major disaster declaration issued for the state by President Clinton, according to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said the President's action requested by the state authorizes the use of federal funds to help meet the recovery needs of families and communities in Shannon County and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation ravaged by severe storms, deadly tornadoes and flooding starting June 4. Witt designated the areas eligible for federal aid immediately after the declaration.
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 funding will be provided for the state and affected local governments to pay 75 percent of the eligible costs 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 additional jurisdictions may be designated for aid later if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments. He named Peter J. Bakersky, of FEMA's regional office in Denver, to serve as the federal coordinating officer for the recovery.
Bakersky said affected residents and business owners in the designated areas can begin the disaster application process by calling 1-800-462-9029, or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will be available starting Thursday, June 10, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.