Washington, DC -- The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today that federal disaster aid has been made available for nine Alabama counties ravaged by deadly tornadoes and other extreme weather beginning last Saturday.
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said President Clinton authorized the aid under a major disaster declaration issued this afternoon immediately following a review of the agency's analysis of the state's expedited request for federal relief submitted earlier today.
"The President is very 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 to ensure that all those in need get help as fast as humanly possible."
The nine counties designated for federal aid by Witt following the declaration include Dale, Etowah, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Limestone, Macon, St.Clair and Tuscaloosa.
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 nine designated counties to pay 75 percent of the eligible cost for debris removal and emergency services related to the disaster. 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 John D. Hannah of FEMA to coordinate the federal relief effort.
Hannah 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 Tuesday, December 19, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.