FEMA Opens Disaster Funds to Oklahoma Tornado Victims

Brennan Linsley/AP

A week after President Obama declared Moore, Okla., a federal disaster area, the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday announced that victims of the May 20 tornado may now apply for federal and state financial aid.

The severe weather took 24 lives and demolished schools and homes across the Oklahoma counties of Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma and Pottawatomie. A FEMA statement encouraged residents of those five counties to register online, via smartphone or by calling an 800 number from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

“Register with FEMA even if insured,” the statement advised individuals and businesses. “Once enrolled, the applicant retains the option of possible state-federal help, especially if underinsured; there is no magic wand. Government disaster assistance covers basic needs only. It normally will not compensate individuals for their entire loss.”

FEMA also encouraged victims to contact their insurance agents immediately and to consider a “low-cost disaster loan” from the Small Business Administration. “Disaster recovery takes time,” FEMA wrote. “Disasters are major disruptive events, and it helps to have realistic expectations of what can be done and how long it takes.”

As of last week, FEMA’s emergency disaster assistance fund stood at $11.6 billion, according to National Public Radio, an amount the agency says is sufficient to cope with the Oklahoma tragedy. But FEMA also continues to administer grants to victims of last fall’s Hurricane Sandy. And sequestration, said one official, cut the fund by $1 billion and left FEMA with 500 vacant positions.

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