WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Twenty southeastern Texas counties were designated for federal aid today by the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist state and local relief efforts for flood-ravaged families and businesses.
FEMA Director James Lee Witt took the action immediately after President Clinton this afternoon declared the state a major disaster area in response to Gov. George W. Bush's expedited request for federal help. The declaration, which follows two others issued this summer for Tropical Storms Charley and Frances, covers damage from severe storms, flooding and tornadoes that began battering the state on October 17.
"The President is very aware of how much the people of Texas already have suffered and is deeply concerned about the tragic loss of life caused by these destructive floods," Witt said. "As before, he has acted quickly to make sure devastated families have all the resources they need to help get them back on the road to recovery as fast as possible."
The twenty counties designated eligible for federal aid to flood-damaged residents and business owners include Bastrop, Bexar, Burelson, Caldwell, Calhoun, Colorado, Comal, DeWitt, Fayette, Goliad, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Hays, Jackson, Karnes, Refugio, Travis, Victoria, Wharton and Wilson.
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.
Additionally, Witt said cost-shared funding will be available to the state for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks. He indicated that more counties and additional forms of assistance for state and local government agencies may be designated later as receding floodwaters allow damage assessments to continue.
Robert E. Hendrix, of FEMA's regional office in Denton, Texas, was named by Witt to coordinate the federal relief effort. Hendrix said residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin the disaster application process by calling 1-800-462-9029, or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will be available starting Thursday, October 22, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CT) seven days a week until further notice.