Washington, D. C. -- The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today that President Bush has declared a major disaster for Mississippi, opening the way for the use of federal disaster funds to help meet the recovery needs of families and businesses devastated by last weekend?s swarm of deadly tornadoes.
FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh made the announcement in Mississippi following a tour of a tornado-ravaged community this morning with Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. The declaration covers damage to private and public property from severe storms and tornadoes that occurred November 10-11.
"President Bush committed to helping Mississippi recover from these storms by making federal assistance available swiftly," Allbaugh said. "FEMA will be there every step of the way during the recovery process to make good on the President?s commitment."
Under the declaration, Allbaugh said stricken residents and business owners in the counties of Clay, Lowndes, Monroe, Noxubee and Oktibbeha are eligible to apply for federal aid that can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, 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 Lowndes County to pay 75 percent of the eligible costs for debris removal, emergency services related to the disaster, and the repair or replacement of 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 damage surveys are continuing and more counties may be designated for aid later based on the results of the assessments. He named Michael Bolch of FEMA to coordinate the federal recovery effort.
Bolch said those in the counties designated for aid to affected residents and business owners can begin the disaster application process 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 starting Friday, November 15, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.