Federal Dollars to Help Tornado Recovery
President Barack Obama has declared communities across Western Massachusetts disaster zones after deadly tornadoes ripped through several communities on June 1.
National, state and local officials met at Springfield's City Hall Wednesday, two weeks after the twisters, to discuss the next step for disaster relief.
Residents and business owners affected by the tornadoes can register for federal disaster relief as early as Thursday. Tornado victims will be able to meet with federal and state officials as early as Saturday. Federal Emergency Management Agency officials say nine Disaster Relief Centers will be set up across Hampden County and even in parts of southern Worcester County. They say they want everyone affected to get the info they need to begin their rebound.
"I give you my word that we're going to come back bigger, better and stronger," says Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno as he stood side-by-side with federal officials and the city's leaders at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
"Individuals that have been impacted by the tornadoes will be eligible to register for assistance," says Nick Russo, a representative with FEMA.
When the June 1 tornadoes touched towns from Westfield to Sturbridge, three people were killed. Officials estimate around 200 homes and businesses were either flattened or damaged, and now officials in Washington will be here to help fund recovery
"I am pleased that President Obama recognized the enormity of the destruction and today ordered federal aid for the state" Congressman Richard Neal said in a statement issued to CBS 3 Springfield Wednesday
"We're long way from completing this mission," Russo says. "We got the declaration this afternoon, and now we're starting to staff up our folks.
With thousands of victims, FEMA and the Small Business Administration will be setting up nine disaster relief locations for victims to get help. They'll be one-stop shops officials say victims can register for assistance after they've spoken to their insurance companies
"We'll be here as long as it takes to bring the relief that you're eligible for," says Russo. "[We will] get the folks back on their feet, get these folks out of the shelters, get the back over their head and get them back up and active again.
FEMA grants will be available for housing and repairs, low-cost loans will be available for uninsured property losses and more federal dollars will be here to fund other programs to aide in the recovery
"Whether you think you're eligible or not, if you're in one of these communities, register [with FEMA]," Russo urges tornado victims. "Let the system decide whether you're eligible or not. You cannot get assistance without registration.
"We have a lot to do to help our communities recover and rebuild, and it's good to know we can count on our government to help," Governor Deval Patrick said in a statement issued to CBS 3 Springfield
There's no word yet on how much money will be coming to Springfield and other Western Mass communities. City officials say they've already spent more than $3 million out of pocket on disaster relief. They estimate more than $90 million dollars in damage to city property alone, not including the hundreds of Springfield victims who lost their homes or businesses.
If you're a tornado victim and you'd like to register with FEMA, you can do so by logging on to https://www.disasterassistance.gov/. You can also call FEMA Tele-registration numbers: 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired.