WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Federal disaster aid was made available today to help families and businesses in 20 West Virginia counties recover from the effects of extreme weather conditions that began earlier this month, according to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said President Clinton authorized the assistance under a major disaster declaration issued for the state this afternoon. The declaration covers damage from severe storms, flooding, and landslides starting February 18.
Immediately after the President's action, Witt designated the counties of Barbour, Braxton, Cabell, Calhoun, Doddridge, Gilmer, Harrison, Jackson, Kanawha, Lewis, Marion, Mason, Monongalia, Putnam, Ritchie, Roane, Tyler, Upshur, Wetzel and Wirt eligible for federal funding to supplement the recovery needs of stricken residents and business owners. The declaration also makes cost-shared funding available to the state for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks.
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.
Witt indicated that damage surveys are continuing and additional designations may be made later based on the results of the assessments. He named Justo Hernandez of FEMA to coordinate the federal relief effort.
Hernandez said those in the counties designated for aid to affected residents and business owners 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 telephone numbers will be available starting Tuesday, February 29, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) seven days a week until further notice.