Washington, DC -- Federal disaster aid has been made available for Mississippi families and communities victimized by tornadoes and other extreme weather that hit the state late last week, according to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh said President Bush authorized the assistance under a major disaster declaration issued for the state this morning. The declaration covers damage to private and public property from severe storms and tornadoes that occurred on February 16.
Immediately after the President's action, Allbaugh designated the counties of Holmes, Lowndes and Oktibbeha eligible for aid to stricken residents and business owners.
The assistance, to be coordinated by FEMA, can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, emergency 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, Allbaugh said federal funds will be provided for the state and affected local governments in the three counties to pay 75 percent of the eligible cost for debris removal, emergency services related to the disaster and restoring damaged public facilities. The declaration also makes cost-shared funding available to the state for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks.
Allbaugh indicated that additional counties may be designated for aid later if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further 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 Saturday, February 24, 2001 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.