WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Federal disaster aid has been made available for Virginia to help families and businesses in the southwestern part of the state recover from the effects of severe storms that struck the area last month, the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today.
Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response, said President Bush authorized the assistance under a major disaster declaration issued after a review of FEMA's analysis of the state's request for federal relief. The declaration covers damage to private property from severe storms and flooding that occurred on November 18-19.
Immediately after the declaration, Brown designated the independent city of Galax and the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Giles, Smyth and Tazewell 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, 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, Brown said federal funds will be available to the state on a cost-shared basis for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks.
Brown indicated that more jurisdictions and additional forms of assistance may be designated later if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments. He named Louis H. Botta of FEMA to coordinate the federal relief effort.
Botta said affected residents and business owners in the designated jurisdictions can begin the disaster application process tomorrow 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.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.