Washington, DC -- The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today designated nine counties in Florida's northwestern panhandle eligible for federal disaster funds to help communities recover from the effects of Tropical Storm Helene.
The action taken by FEMA Director James Lee Witt came immediately after President Clinton this afternoon declared the state a major disaster area because of damage to public property from heavy rains, high winds, tornadoes and flooding spawned by Helene beginning September 21.
Witt said the President's declaration makes federal funds available to the state and affected local governments to pay 75 percent of the approved cost for debris removal, emergency services related to the storm, and restoring damaged public facilities.
The nine counties designated eligible for the assistance include Bay, Calhoun, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Jefferson, Leon, Okaloosa and Wakulla.
In addition, Witt said funding will be provided for the state on a cost-share basis for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks. He indicated that more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated later if requested and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.
Charles M. Butler of FEMA was named by Witt to coordinate the federal relief effort. Butler said that procedures for requesting assistance will be explained at a series of applicant briefings at locations to be announced shortly in the affected areas.