Birmingham, Ala. and Smithville, Miss. - Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today traveled to Alabama and Mississippi with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate and Small Business Administration Administrator (SBA) Karen Mills to survey the damage and the response and recovery efforts underway. American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern also joined the delegation.
The administration officials visited the Pratt City Command Center in Birmingham, Ala., with Mayor William Bell to tour the damage and meet with first responders--applauding the ongoing coordination of resources and manpower on the federal, state and local levels to help the community rebuild and recover.
A housing mission planning team comprised of housing and technical experts from FEMA, HUD, Army Corps of Engineers, SBA and voluntary agencies is on-site in Alabama to assist the state-led housing task force in establishing housing priorities.
"We thank the first responders, emergency personnel, as well as citizens and volunteers - many of whom are victims of this disaster - for working around the clock to help with response and recovery efforts," said Secretary Napolitano. "This tragedy has touched so many people - here in Alabama, Mississippi and in other states throughout the region. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost a loved one, are still searching for one, have been injured, or have lost a home or business."
In Smithville, Miss. the senior administration officials joined Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Mayor Gregg Kennedy, U.S. Representatives Spencer Bachus and Alan Nunnelee, Senator Roger Wicker and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Womack. Together they toured a residential Smithville neighborhood that had been leveled by the storms. Since Saturday, additional FEMA Community Relations (CR) teams have been deployed to Mississippi to meet with disaster survivors to explain the assistance available and to facilitate their registrations for assistance.
Throughout the day, each of the officials underscored their respective roles as part of the nation's response and recovery team - a team that includes the entire federal government, state, local and tribal officials, the faith-based and non-profit communities, the private sector and most importantly, the public.
The administration has been deeply involved in response and recovery efforts since the storms first hit. Earlier this evening, the President signed a major disaster declaration for the state of Tennessee. Previously, on April 29, the President signed major disaster declarations for Mississippi and Georgia, in addition to the Alabama major disaster declaration signed on April 28, which make federal assistance available to individuals who suffered personal property damages or losses, and for public infrastructure, such as schools, fire stations and libraries. Damage assessments are ongoing, and counties continue to be designated to receive assistance as damage assessments are completed. Additionally, FEMA has received disaster declaration requests from the governors of Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas, and those requests are under review. Preliminary damage assessments are also being conducted today in Virginia.
Families and individuals that have been impacted by the tornadoes and storms, and need assistance have several options for getting help: