Washington, DC -- Federal disaster aid was made available today for families and businesses victimized by wildfires that have raged in central and western Montana beginning July 13, according to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said President Clinton ordered the assistance under a major disaster declaration issued this afternoon following a review of the agency's analysis of the state's request for federal relief submitted yesterday.
Immediately after the President's declaration, Witt designated the following jurisdictions eligible for federal aid to affected residents and business owners: Beaverhead, Broadwater, Carbon, Cascade, Deer Lodge, Flathead, Gallatin, Glacier, Granite, Jefferson, Judith Basin, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Madison, Meagher, Mineral, Missoula, Park, Pondera, Powell, Ravalli, Sanders, Silver Bow, Stillwater, Sweet Grass, Teton and Wheatland counties, and the Flathead Indian and Blackfeet Indian reservations.
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. Funding also will be provided to pay unemployment benefits for those who normally do not qualify for state compensation and for crisis counseling programs to help individuals and families adjust to the stress and trauma caused by the fires.
In addition, low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration will be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance, including business economic losses.
Under the declaration, Witt said federal funds also will be provided for the state on a cost-share basis for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks. He indicated that additional forms of aid for state and local government agencies may be made available later if requested and warranted by the results of further damage assessments. More than $6.1 million in FEMA fire suppression grants already has been approved to date to cover the state's firefighting costs.
Carlos Mitchell of FEMA was named by Witt to coordinate the federal relief effort. Mitchell said residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated jurisdictions 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, August 31, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.