Clanton, AL -- Just 10 days after killer tornadoes swept through 11 Alabama counties, prompting President Clinton to declare them a major disaster area, federal and state emergency personnel have approved $380,000 in assistance to homeowners and renters whose residences were destroyed or severely damaged by the destructive storms.
Deadly winds claimed several lives and ravaged hundreds of homes and businesses in the December 16 assault. Many of the damaged dwellings were made uninhabitable by the tornadoes.
Data released by Federal Coordinating Officer John Hannah of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Director Lee Helms of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) reflect expedited efforts to provide temporary shelter and emergency home repair aid.
As of Friday, 844 Alabama disaster victims had applied for help, with approved funding totaling $380,769 for two priority categories-emergency disaster housing assistance, and grants to uninsured or underinsured homeowners that would make their homes habitable until permanent repairs are made.
In all, federal or state aid already has been approved for 209 individuals and families. Hundreds more are being processed by FEMA, AEMA and the U.S Small Business Administration (SBA). During the same period the SBA made $472,300 in low-interest loans-3 ? percent-to eight applicants in order to rebuild their destroyed residences.
"Housing is always the focus of recovery efforts in the early stages following a disaster," Hannah said. "People tend to recover sooner from the shock of a disaster in homes of their own, even if they are temporary homes or rented space."
Affected counties are Dale, Etowah, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Macon, Limestone, St. Clair and Tuscaloosa. Two more -Jefferson and Cherokee Counties-were added to the disaster declaration Thursday, making storm victims there eligible to apply for temporary housing aid, direct grants to repair minor damages to dwellings, and low-interest SBA loans.
By week's end, FEMA had approved $191,100 in direct grants, which thus far have averaged $4,260 each for 42 family and individual victims of storm strikes. Assistance for emergency housing has averaged $1,851.
Of the 844 applicants for disaster aid, 265 sought direct grants because their damaged homes were either uninsured or underinsured; 410 sought temporary housing assistance because their residences were made unlivable; and eight others met eligibility requirements for low-interest SBA loans.