Obama signs disaster aid for tornado-hit Massachusetts

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 15, 2011 5:48 PM
Obama signs disaster aid for tornado-hit Massachusetts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a disaster declaration for the Massachusetts counties hit by the June 1 tornadoes that killed three people and caused damage in the tens of millions of dollars.

The move frees up federal funding to residents and business owners in Hampden and Worcester counties and will help supplement state and local recovery and rebuilding efforts, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.

Assistance includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and unemployment payments for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed workers, it said.

Funds in the form of low-interest loans also are available to help cover losses from damage to homes, businesses, farms and ranches, cooperatives and other organizations, FEMA said.

The tally of damages from the tornadoes that ripped through western and central Massachusetts nearly two weeks ago was at least $90 million, the state Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation has said.

It was the most costly single natural disaster in state history, the office said.

FEMA, which is part of the federal Department of Homeland Security, named James Russo as top coordinator for federal recovery operations in the area devastated by the storms.

People in Hampden and Worcester counties can apply by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).

(Reporting by Zach Howard ; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune)