President Biden pledged the federal government’s full support for relief efforts. He declared a state of emergency for Kentucky and instructed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help 15 counties there.
“I say to all the victims — you’re in our prayers — and all those first responders, emergency personnel and everyone helping their fellow Americans that this is the right thing to do at the right time, and we’re going to get through this,” Biden said at a news conference Saturday.
State leaders and national nonprofit organizations are raising money for the relief efforts, most of which are concentrated in western Kentucky.
That state set up a fund to help the victims and families affected by a storm system that killed dozens of people and destroyed numerous structures Friday and into the early hours of Saturday.
Beshear announced a fund that is “solely dedicated to the on-the-ground efforts” and relief work that families will need to rebuild in the aftermath of the tornadoes.
The Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund went live Saturday to help those affected by the devastation. The fund had collected more than $4 million in donations as of early Monday, Beshear said. Part of that money will be given to victims’ families, each of whom will receive $5,000 for burial expenses.
“This is the hardest tornado we’ve ever been through, and it’s not just because of the property damage,” Beshear said over the weekend. “We’ve lost a lot of good people. We’ve got to do our best as it gets dark and through the next days to make sure we don’t lose any more.”
Kentucky has needed blood donations since the coronavirus pandemic hit the state, Beshear said, and Friday’s disaster has increased that need.
People can donate blood at Red Cross locations. Blood donations can also be made at Kentucky Blood Center drives.
Beshear said Monday that assistance is needed at state parks that have been opened to provide housing for impacted families.
“That doesn’t take any expertise at all — just chipping in and helping to do the things that support these families,” he said.
Volunteers are needed, he said, to help staff the parks and help with tasks such as washing dishes and clothing. The governor said to contact Kentucky State Parks to inquire about volunteering.
He also noted that a price gouging statute is in effect, and urged people to alert authorities if “all of sudden gas goes through the roof or building materials go through the roof.”
In a Tuesday news conference, Beshear urged people to be vigilant against “scammers” who could defraud people during such a stressful rebuilding process.
“They can impersonate relief or charitable organizations, so give responsibly, give to groups that you know, to avoid becoming a victim,” he said.
He added that people should “beware of contractors that claim to be FEMA certified; FEMA neither certifies nor endorses private-sector contractors; that is a direct sign of fraud.”
One such reputable group is the American Red Cross, for which La Grange Kentucky Main Street has set up a relief fund.
“Giving money here to the American Red Cross will make an impact on disaster relief efforts in Western Kentucky,” the Facebook page says. “Whether you donate $5 or $500, every little bit helps.”
Kentucky’s Heartland branch of Feeding America set up a donation link that will help the group feed hungry Kentuckians who might be without power and meals over the weekend.
“Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland has mobilized efforts to provide ready-to-eat bags of food that require no cooking and extra utensils,” the group said in a social media post. “This massive devastation couldn’t come at a worse time as most of the state is still in recovery from the pandemic and people are financially exhausted from holiday expenses.”
In Illinois, where a Tornado chewed through an Amazon distribution center and killed six people, the Edwardsville Community Foundation is accepting donations for relief efforts, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said in a news conference Monday.
Some Americans jumped at the opportunity to help those in need.
Michael Capponi, founder of Global Empowerment Mission, a nonprofit organization based near Miami that helps people who have experienced natural disasters, headed to Mayfield, Ky., with a team and four trucks of goods to distribute.
Experience with aiding survivors of natural disasters from Haiti to Surfside, Fla., told him that the scope of the Kentucky damage would be severe, he told The Washington Post in an interview.
He said his priority is to get supplies — provided by partners including Bethenny Frankel’s BStrong initiative, Goya Foods and Walmart — to survivors as soon as possible.
“Time is life in the disaster world,” he said.
Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster relief organization, deployed six people to Kentucky for recovery efforts that include clearing roadways from Benton to Mayfield.
Response services could include removing fallen or hazardous debris, Kirby Willis, Team Rubicon’s volunteer Kentucky logistics leader, said in a statement to The Post.
Convoy of Hope, an international faith-based nonprofit that helps disaster victims, sent semitrailers full of relief supplies to Kentucky to deliver to those affected by the tornadoes.
Here are some other organizations that will distribute donations to help survivors.
- GoFundMe has launched a hub of verified fundraisers where proceeds will go to survivors and relief efforts.
- CARE, an international aid organization, and partners are providing food, water and shelter, as well as cash assistance to families.
- International Medical Corps, a nonprofit organization, is deploying an emergency response to Kentucky.
- Islamic Relief USA, a nonprofit humanitarian and advocacy organization, has also launched a campaign to help families who were impacted by the tornadoes.