Washington, DC -- Federal disaster aid has been made available for families and businesses in four southeast Florida counties swamped by record rains this week, according to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said President Clinton ordered the assistance immediately after receiving the agency's analysis of the state's expedited request for federal relief. The President's major disaster declaration covers damage to private property from severe storms and flooding that hit the area beginning October 3.
Witt said the President's declaration signed last night authorizes the use of federal funds to help meet the recovery needs of stricken residents and business owners in the counties of Broward, Collier, Miami-Dade and Monroe.
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 funding will be provided for the state on a cost-share basis for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks. He indicated that damage surveys are continuing and more counties and additional forms of assistance for state and local government agencies may be designated later based on the results of the assessments.
Justo Hernandez of FEMA was named by Witt to coordinate the federal relief effort. Hernandez said that affected residents and business owners can begin the disaster application process by calling 1-800-462-9029, or 1-800-462-7585 (TDD) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will be available starting at 1 p.m. today and remain in service from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.