White House Cabinet Members Meet with Families, State and Local Officials in Alabama and Mississippi

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–May 1, 2011.  Following the President’s commitment on Friday that the federal government would do everything possible to help families and communities recover from the deadly tornados and severe storms that struck the southeast earlier this week, several members of his Cabinet are in Alabama and Mississippi today.  They are there to meet with families affected by the storms, as well as meet with state and local officials and to view damage and assess the initial recovery efforts already underway.

Today’s travel party comprises: Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate and Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Karen Mills.

Since the immediate impact of the storms, the President, Secretary Napolitano, and Administrator Fugate have been in constant contact with the governors of all the impacted states to ensure they have the support they need.

On April 29, the President signed major disaster declarations for Mississippi and Georgia, in addition to the Alabama major disaster declaration signed on April 28, which make federal assistance available to individuals who suffered personal property damages or losses, and for public infrastructure, such as schools, fire stations and libraries.  Damage assessments are ongoing, and counties continue to be designated to receive assistance as damage assessments are completed.  Additionally, FEMA has received disaster declaration requests from the governors of the States of Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, and those requests are under review.  Preliminary damage assessments are also being conducted today in Virginia.

“FEMA is part of a team that continues to work with communities to help them rebuild and recover.  This team includes the entire federal family, state, local and tribal officials, the faith-based and non-profit communities, the private sector and most importantly the public,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.  “This administration will bring the full support of the federal government and its partners to bear to support the states, families and communities devastated by these deadly tornadoes, for as long as it takes.”

A housing mission planning team is on the ground in Alabama to support the state in meeting its objectives.  This team, comprised of housing and technical experts from FEMA, HUD, Army Corps of Engineers, SBA and voluntary agencies, will assist the state-led housing task force in establishing housing priorities; seeking ways to maximize housing resources, such as apartments and rental units; and other resources, if needed.

As work continues to restore power and remove debris so that homes can begin to be repaired or replaced, FEMA is working with HUD to identify available rental resources to help survivors find long-term housing solutions.  FEMA is also working with the Army Corps of Engineers to provide temporary home repairs, such as covering broken windows or holes in roofs and getting survivors back home more quickly; and working with SBA to help individuals and businesses apply for low-interest loans so that they can more quickly rebuild or repair their damaged homes and replace lost property.

Additionally, FEMA is actively taking registration information through its call centers, has inspectors on the ground assessing the damages of those who have registered, and is approving financial assistance for housing (such as rental assistance and home repair money) and financial assistance for other essential needs such as disaster-related medical needs, and replacing lost clothing, furniture and other necessary items.

Additional information on the coordination efforts of FEMA and its federal partners, updated as of 12 PM EDT today, can be found below:

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

  • At the request of the respective states, FEMA currently has personnel on the ground in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee, and commodities strategically pre-positioned in the region, including personnel in North Carolina as a result of the April 16th storms.
  • FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams are currently located in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee to assist in coordination efforts as the states continue to respond and begin to recover from this devastating storm outbreak.
  • An Incident Support Base has been established at the Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama to move supplies such as water, infant-toddler kits and tarps closer to the affected areas should they be needed, and additional resources continue to arrive.
  • Mobile Emergency Response Support teams and equipment have been deployed to Alabama and Mississippi to provide voice, video and data capabilities in support of communication requirements identified by the Federal Coordinating Officer.
  • FEMA Community Relations (CR) teams are on the ground in Alabama and Georgia and additional CR teams have been deployed to meet with disaster survivors and explain the assistance available and to help survivors register for assistance.
  • FEMA partnered with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency to create a joint Facebook page as an additional way to reach Alabama residents during the response and recovery efforts after the severe storms and tornadoes.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

  • Staff are monitoring the situation at the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant after the site lost offsite power early Wednesday evening due to severe storms that damaged power lines in the area. The plant is operated by Tennessee Valley Authority near Athens, about 32 miles west of Huntsville, Ala.  The reactor units were automatically and safely shut down on April 27th.

American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other voluntary and faith-based agencies

  • Voluntary and faith-based organizations continue to locally offer and coordinate housing, food and other services as needed to support disaster survivors in the affected states.
  • Open Red Cross shelters can be found on www.redcross.org.
  • The Red Cross Safe and Well secure website provides a way for people to find information on people affected by the storms. To register, visit www.redcross.org.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

  • HSS has activated a Disaster Medical Assistance Team and a Disaster Mortuary Operations Response Assessment Team which are ready to deploy as needed by the states.
  • HHS is also providing information on post-storm health messages such as how to prevent carbon-monoxide poisoning, tips on generator safety and safety around downed power lines.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • NOAA has deployed survey teams to many affected states to begin assessing damage and conduct analysis in the coming days that will be utilized to assign Enhanced Fujita (EF) ratings.

Department of Defense/USNORTHCOM

  • The Department of Defense (DoD) has activated a Defense Coordinating Officer to assist in the coordination of DoD resources needed to support state response and recovery efforts.

Air Force Auxiliary

  • Civil Air Patrol pilots from Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia are flying over areas with major devastation to assist first responders and state and local officials as they assess the damage to the region.  The Civil Air Patrol, in its role as the Air Force Auxiliary, performs its missions for DoD and other federal agencies, as well as state and local authorities when assistance is requested.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

  • HUD continues to provide federal disaster assistance supporting homeowners and low-income renters forced from their homes following severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding this week.  Read more about the services provided by HUD.

U.S. Postal Service (USPS)

  • USPS is providing details on the status of open USPS offices, including hours of operation and services provided to disaster survivors affected by the recent storms.

Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration

  • The Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued tips for workers and members of public to protect themselves from hazards that individuals may encounter during clean-up and recovery efforts.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

  • Farm Service Agency (FSA) continues to issue information on the FSA programs that may be available to crop and livestock producers in affected states to assist with recovery.  Information on the services provided by FSA can be found at www.fsa.usda.gov.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

  • The IRS has activated its disaster tax relief program, which includes providing tax filing and tax payment relief for individuals and businesses covering the period of April 15, 2011 to June 30, 2011.  To learn more about the IRS disaster tax relief program, click here.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Source: fema.gov