WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Clinton authorized federal disaster aid for four southwestern Georgia counties ravaged by deadly tornadoes Monday morning. FEMA Director James Lee Witt said the declaration was issued immediately after the White House reviewed of the agency's analysis of the state's expedited request for federal relief.
"The President is deeply concerned about the terrible loss of life and destruction caused by these devastating storms," Witt said. "He acted quickly in committing the necessary federal resources, and we will work as fast as humanly possible in aiding all those in need."
The four counties designated for federal aid include Colquitt, Grady, Mitchell and Tift.
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 four designated counties to pay 75 percent of the eligible cost for debris removal and emergency services related to the disaster, including requested emergency work undertaken by the federal government. The declaration also makes cost-shared funding available to the state for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks.
Witt indicated that more counties and additional forms of assistance for state and local government agencies may be designated later based on the results of ongoing damage assessments. He named Tom P. Davies of FEMA to coordinate the federal relief effort. 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 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will be available starting Wednesday, February 16, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) seven days a week until further notice.