WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Federal disaster aid was made available today to help families and communities in northern Minnesota recover from the effects of extreme weather conditions that began earlier this month, according to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said President Clinton authorized the assistance under a major disaster declaration issued for the state this afternoon. The declaration covers damage from severe storms, high winds and flooding starting July 4.
Immediately after the President's action, Witt designated the counties of Cook, Itasca and St. Louis eligible for federal funding to supplement the recovery needs of stricken residents and business owners.
The assistance, to be coordinated by FEMA, can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, minor 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 federal funds will be provided for local governments to pay 75 percent of the eligible costs for restoring damaged public facilities in the counties of Aitkin, Cass, Clay, Cook, Hubbard, Itasca, Lake and St. Louis. The declaration also makes cost-shared funding available to the state for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks.
Witt indicated that damage surveys are continuing and additional designations may be made later based on the results of the assessments. He named Ron Sherman, of FEMA's regional office in Chicago, to coordinate the federal relief effort.
Sherman said those in the counties designated for aid to affected residents and business owners 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 telephone numbers will be available starting Thursday, July 29, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CT) seven days a week until further notice.