Washington, DC -- Federal disaster aid was made available today for families and businesses victimized by the raging wildfire that erupted in the north-central part of New Mexico earlier this week, according to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said President Clinton ordered the aid under a major disaster declaration issued for the state early this evening. The declaration follows the emergency assistance authorized by the President last Thursday to supplement the state's firefighting efforts and help meet immediate human needs.
"The President remains very concerned about the safety and welfare of the people devastated by this disastrous fire," Witt said. "He acted quickly in responding to the state's emergency request and his action today ensures that those who were burned out of their homes and businesses will be provided with the assistance they need to recover as fast and efficiently as possible."
Immediately after the President's declaration, Witt designated 12 counties eligible for aid to affected residents and business owners, including Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Sandoval and Santa Fe, and the contiguous counties of Bernalillo, Cibola, McKinley, Mora, San Juan, San Miguel, Taos and Torrance. 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 additional forms of aid for state and local government agencies may be made available later if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.
FEMA's Mark S. Ghilarducci, named by Witt to coordinate the federal relief effort, 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 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will be available starting Sunday, May 14, from 8 AM to 6 PM seven days a week until further notice.