KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- FEMA's authority to coordinate other federal agencies after disasters and its grant programs for individuals and communities have been essential to the Greensburg, Kansas tornado recovery. After a powerful EF-5 tornado nearly destroyed the small town on May 4, 2007 more than $49 million in federal disaster assistance has been approved for Greensburg residents, businesses and infrastructure projects.
Whether it was bringing in the agency's "Red October" mobile unit to serve as a command post; dispensing immediate housing grants and providing temporary housing to devastated families, or implementing Emergency Support Function 14 (long term recovery) to give local officials a strategy for recovery, FEMA was always where it was needed most.
Staff from FEMA's regional office was on the scene only hours after the devastating tornado hit. Red October was there by the second day and gave the newly set-up unified command a place to meet and assess needs. The state of Kansas's Division of Emergency Management and FEMA began to work immediately with local officials to determine what needed to be done first. Of course, after rescues and medical needs were taken care of, there were the tons of debris to clear. FEMA's Public Assistance program guaranteed that three quarters, and in some cases, more of the costs of clearing the debris would be paid by the federal government. In total 388,458 tons of debris were removed.
Through its mission assignment process, FEMA funded more than $12 million to bring the resources of other federal agencies to the Greensburg recovery. This assistance was primarily provided in the first few weeks of the recovery. Agencies such the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the General Services Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency assisted in the recovery effort.
FEMA's Public Assistance program is aiding the re-establishment of the city's critical infrastructure; its city hall, county courthouse, hospital, high school, and electric system. Public Assistance Coordinators are continuing to work with applicants to assure they can be paid as soon as possible. The program has already dispersed more than $15.9 million to local government entities to help pay the cost of debris removal, emergency protective measures and damages to public buildings and utilities. Another $4 million in estimated projects is expected to be delivered in the coming months.
FEMA's Individuals and Households program has issued more than $2.5 million in housing and other needs assistance and provided temporary housing to hundreds of Greensburg families. The U.S.
Small Business Administration has approved more than $30.4 million in low-interest loans to residents and businesses as well. Of the approximately 1,400 people living in Greensburg prior to the tornado, many sought refuge with family and friends, but nearly 100 households took advantage of the travel trailers and mobile homes that FEMA provided. The travel trailers were primarily located in commercial trailer parks in the surrounding communities of Kinsley, Pratt and Bucklin. That situation persisted until early July, when a group site on the south end of Greensburg was ready for some three hundred mobile homes. Most of the households in the travel trailers and mobile homes have now moved into the Greensburg group site. Currently, 210 families reside there.
In addition to Kiowa County, 41 other counties in Kansas were included in the Presidential declaration for Individual Assistance, Public Assistance or both. Disaster-wide (including Greensburg), more than $96 million has been approved for residents, businesses and public infrastructure that has resulted in:
- $7,902,729 in Housing Assistance;
- $1,627,130 in Other Needs Assistance;
- $41,782,900 in...