Washington, DC -- Federal disaster aid was expanded today to help families and businesses in Arkansas impacted by the severe winter ice storm that struck the area beginning on December 12, according to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said President Clinton ordered the assistance this evening under a major disaster declaration requested by the state late yesterday.
Immediately after the President's action, Witt designated 22 counties eligible for federal assistance to stricken residents and business owners, including Arkansas, Bradley, Calhoun, Cleveland, Columbia, Crittenden, Dallas, Desha, Drew, Grant, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lincoln, Lonoke, Monroe, Nevada, Ouachita, Polk, Prairie, Pulaski, St. Francis, and Union. Witt indicated that additional designations may be made later if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.
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, federal funds will be available to the state and affected local governments to pay 75 percent of the eligible cost for debris removal, emergency services related to the disaster, and restoring damaged public facilities.
Federal Coordinating Officer Joe Bray of FEMA said affected residents and business owners 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 telephone numbers will be available starting Saturday, December 30, from 8 AM to 6 PM (CT) seven days a week until further notice.