Federal disaster aid headed to Oklahoma as FEMA responds to tornado

(Paul Hellstern/AP)
(Paul Hellstern/AP)

President Obama on Monday declared a major federal disaster in response to the behemoth tornado that ripped through Oklahoma, prompting the Federal Emergency Management Agency into action.

The declaration makes federal disaster aid available to support recovery efforts in areas affected by the tornado and by severe storms dating back as early as last Saturday, according to a FEMA news release.

The agency said assistance will include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and funding for programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the disaster, which killed dozens of people as it tore a path of destruction up to a mile wide and 20 miles long in Moore, Okla.

Federal funding is available on a cost-sharing basis to state, tribal and local governments, as well as certain private nonprofit organizations in four Oklahoma counties: Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma and Pottawatomie.

Sandy Coachman, FEMA’s coordinating officer for the affected area, has said that more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the agency completes damage assessments.

The government-wide spending cuts known as the sequester, which took effect more than two months ago, have left FEMA with $1 billion less this year for dealing with recovery efforts, Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha Catron said in March.

However, the agency still has more than $13 billion remaining in its fiscal year 2013 disaster-relief fund after implementing the required reductions, Catron said.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks | May 21, 2013