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Oklahoma failing to tap federal disaster aid

Updated:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma has failed to tap into federal disaster funds for Hurricane Katrina survivors who evacuated to their states because no one in the state has applied for the money, officials said.

Congress approved in September a $2 billion block grant program for displaced Gulf Coast families, regardless of income, to help them recover after the Aug. 29 storm.

Only 11 states have made requests, totaling $25.5 million, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

The money which comes from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant program.

``We didn't get any requests from anybody that needed it,'' said Dustin Pyeatt, a spokesman with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. ``We didn't get any applications or anything.''

Usually the TANF funds, which are paid by the federal government and administered by the states, are given to low-income families in times of special need. Oklahoma last year received about $33.7 million in the cash-assistance funds, Pyeatt said.

Congress expanded the program so hurricane survivors who lost their homes, jobs and vehicles could get cash payments regardless of their income level over a 12-month period if they weren't already receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds somewhere else.

The period ends Aug. 31, after which the federal government will take back any unclaimed money.

``We had emergency food stamps and things like that, but as far as the TANF is concerned, we didn't have anybody apply,'' Pyeatt said.

Oklahoma received some displaced families from Hurricane Katrina, but not as many as originally expected. About 1,500 Hurricane Katrina survivors were placed in Camp Gruber, an Oklahoma National Guard base in eastern Oklahoma, but a church camp near Davis prepared to handle as many as 3,000 survivors was not used as an evacuation center.

The federal government estimated about 10,000 hurricane survivors relocated to Oklahoma. About 9,000 still list Oklahoma as their address in paperwork filed with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to the Oklahoma Emergency Management Department.
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