Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 8, 2014

FEMA denies state's appeal for tornado aid

Decision means victims won't receive federal disaster assistance.

By Scott Smith Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied Indiana’s appeal for federal assistance for damage caused by severe storms, high winds and tornadoes that hit the state on Nov. 17.

Indiana first filed for federal assistance for Howard County on Dec. 4. FEMA denied that request on Dec. 11. On Dec. 23, Indiana appealed that decision, adding Boone, Daviess, Fountain, Grant and Tippecanoe counties. State officials received word Tuesday that the appeal had been denied.

The decision means tornado victims in Kokomo won’t be eligible for individual assistance grants from FEMA, and is a big blow, especially to tornado victims without insurance.

An approval of the request would have opened up several avenues of aid for the Kokomo community, including temporary housing assistance and funding for building repairs and replacements.

Kokomo received a more limited type of assistance after the April 2013 floods, when FEMA approved low-interest loans to victims in the area from the Small Business Administration.

After the Nov. 17 tornadoes, state officials thought Kokomo and Howard County should be eligible for FEMA disaster assistance.

But Tuesday, federal agency officials reaffirmed an earlier determination that the Nov. 17 tornado outbreak was “not of the severity and magnitude which warrants a major disaster declaration,” according to a letter received by state officials.

“This means there are no further options with FEMA,” Indiana Department of Homeland Security spokesman John Erickson said Tuesday.

Erickson said state officials are weighing options, including applying to make some tornado-hit areas eligible for SBA assistance. The state also has a pool of money, called the State Disaster Relief Fund, which is used in tandem with the SBA loan program.

Erickson said the state fund provides up to $5,000 for victims who don’t qualify for SBA loans.

“We’re looking at our options,” he said.

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569, scott.smith@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @JasonSSmith1