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FEMA disaster assistance application period for tornado victims ending

The United States Army Corp of Engineers cleans debris in Mayfield from the aftermath of the tornado outbreak.
Lily Burris
The United States Army Corp of Engineers cleans debris in Mayfield from the aftermath of the tornado outbreak.

The deadline for disaster assistance for Kentucky residents impacted by December’s tornado outbreak from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is Mar. 14.

Individuals in 16 counties can apply for assistance. An earlier FEMA deadline was set for Feb. 11, but the application period was extended at the state’s request. FEMA recommends anyone who has yet to apply do so first with their insurance, if they have any, and then apply with the agency.

So far, federal assistance for this tornado outbreak has reached more than $64 million. FEMA has given out more than $14.4 million so far, with $10.4 million going to household assistance and the other $4 million to other things.

La-Tanga Hopes, public information officer for FEMA, said that anyone who is filling out their application at this point should be as thorough as possible.

“The formula is to make sure that you explain why your home or your dwelling is not safe, sanitary or functional,” Hopes said. “If you're dealing with personal belongings, you need to explain to us how this essential need is either functionally needed, why it's not providing safety and you need to have it or why it's a necessary need based on functionality.”

Applications filed after the deadline may not be able to receive as much assistance as those filed by the deadline. The agency has sent workers to Home Depots and Walmarts in affected cities to offer people assistance with their application.

If anyone needs assistance after FEMA pulls out of the area, officials say the best step is to call 1-800-621-3362 for help. There is assistance available in multiple languages.

People can still appeal a denial after the deadline passes. Hopes described it as an on-going process that stays open until it’s completed.

FEMA has a variety of information available to those affected by the tornado. The agency has resources listed on helping children with their trauma, crisis counseling and legal services. They are also looking to fill temporary positions in disaster-affected areas.

“Our goal was to make sure that we kept communities intact, that was our objective and our underlined focus and I hope that we were able to achieve that,” Hopes said. “I hope that when the state reflects back on this and the people in the communities reflect back on it, that they feel that that's what FEMA achieved with them and supported in the recovery efforts and in attempting to achieve.”

Lily Burris is a tornado recovery reporter for WKMS, Murray State's NPR Station. Her nine month reporting project is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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