Washington, D. C. -- The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today that President Bush has declared a major disaster for Louisiana, triggering the release of federal funds to help meet the recovery needs of families and businesses swamped by Tropical Storm Isidore's torrential rains.
FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh said the President took the action this afternoon immediately after receiving the agency's analysis of the state's expedited request for federal assistance. The declaration covers damage to private property from heavy rains, tornadoes and flooding spawned by Isidore, which began affecting the state's coastline on September 21.
"The President recognizes that people need help now and has acted quickly to ensure that they receive the assistance required to get them on the road to recovery as fast and efficiently as possible," said Allbaugh, who inspected the damaged area by air and met with Gov. M. J. "Mike" Foster yesterday.
After the declaration, Allbaugh designated the following 12 parishes eligible for aid to stricken residents and business owners: Iberia, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Terrebonne.
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.
In addition, Allbaugh said federal funds will be provided for the state and affected local governments to pay 75 percent of the eligible cost for debris removal and emergency services related to the storm in the parishes of East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Mary, St. Tammany and Terrebonne. The declaration also makes cost-shared funding available to the state for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks.
Allbaugh indicated that more parishes and additional assistance for state and local government agencies may be designated later as receding floodwaters allow damage to be assessed throughout the stricken area. He named Carlos Mitchell of FEMA to coordinate the federal relief effort.
Mitchell said that those in the parishes designated for aid to affected residents and business owners can begin the disaster assistance process on Saturday, September 28, by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will be available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.