The ruins of tornado-hit St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Ridgway, Ill. (JIM YOUNG/REUTERS)

Unlike last summer, when major weather events nearly drained the federal disaster relief fund, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Monday that it has roughly $3.7 billion for assistance to individual homeowners and to communities affected by all major natural disasters after the agency approves requests for federal aid from state governors.

At least 39 have been reported dead and hundreds were injured in the storms across at least six states. Late Sunday, Kentucky became the first state to request federal aid, when Gov. Steven Beshear (D) urgently asked the White House to declare the state a major disaster, including providing individual and public assistance for 48 counties and hazard mitigation assistance for the entire commonwealth.

“If there’s a shortfall, we’ll be there to be helpful,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday afternoon on the Senate floor, noting that he and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also had urged the White House to quickly approve the request.

FEMA has sent personnel to six states to make preliminary damage assessments — Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and West Virginia. States have reported no unmet needs thus far, the agency said Monday.

Over the weekend, both President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke with governors from the affected states and promised to provide whatever U.S. aid is needed.

As federal aid is distributed, FEMA is likely to place liaisons in affected communities to answer logistical questions, ensure that damage assessments are completed quickly and to provide emotional support.

Read more about how FEMA teams responded to last year’s tornadoes in Alabama here.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

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