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Serving: KS

Presidential Disaster Declaration Authorized for Storm-Stricken Counties

Communities, businesses may qualify for financial assistance.

President George W. Bush has declared a major disaster for 44 Kansas counties affected by severe winter storms that hit the state on Dec. 28, 2006.

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius declared a State of Disaster Emergency and sent a letter to the president on Jan. 3, requesting public assistance for counties hit by winter storms.

These counties include: Cheyenne, Clark, Comanche, Decatur, Edwards, Ellis, Finney, Ford, Graham, Grant, Gray, Greeley, Gove, Hamilton, Haskell, Hodgeman, Jewell, Kearny, Kiowa, Lane, Logan, Meade, Morton, Ness, Norton, Osborne, Pawnee, Phillips, Rawlins, Rooks, Rush, Russell, Scott, Seward, Sheridan, Sherman, Smith, Stafford, Stanton, Stevens, Thomas, Trego, Wallace, and Wichita.

The storms, accompanied by high winds, blizzard and icing conditions, left more than 69,000 people without power, including police departments, fire departments and hospitals. Snow blanketed the area with nearly three feet in some counties and drifting reported as high as 15 to 16 feet.

"This federal assistance will enable local officials to restore vital public infrastructure damaged by these storms," Sebelius said in a statement Monday. "On behalf of the state of Kansas, I appreciate the President's decision that will help those communities impacted."

First District Congressman Jerry Moran says The categories of public assistance available are for debris removal on public right-of-ways and emergency protective measures, which include funds to assist in activities like restoration of public utilities. Additional public assistance categories, like assistance to rebuild public infrastructure, may be added once a preliminary damage assessment is completed. The cost of approved public assistance projects will be shared 75% by the federal government and 25% by the state and local government. Also available will be hazard mitigation assistance.

Sebelius noted certain private nonprofit organizations may also be eligible for assistance.

In addition to authorizing public assistance to restore damaged public infrastructure, the declaration also activates the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for the entire state, which gives assistance to state and local governments for actions taken to prevent or reduce long term risk to life and property from natural or technological hazards.

The Governor asked for the public assistance under Section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, Public Law 288, as amended, and implemented by 44 CFR Part 206.36(d). These damages include such things as power lines, transformers and debris removal. Federal funds provided under the Stafford Act are limited to 75% of the total eligible costs in the designated areas.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is still considering whether to name the area an agricultural disaster area, according to Moran.

"Since my visit to western Kansas, I have had conversations with the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and FEMA Director David Paulison. During these conversations, I relayed the extent of the damage and the need for assistance," Moran said in a statement Monday. "Upon a Presidential Disaster Designation, USDA can provide assistance once a determination is made, using loss estimates, that production losses merit a response.

"However, before USDA can make that determination, it must receive and review an estimate of agricultural related losses. If a determination is made, USDA can make assistance programs, such as emergency low interest loans, available to producers as funding allows," he said.

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