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Public assistance expanded for three counties


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Disaster assistance for three Oklahoma counties affected by the Jan. 30 ice storm has been expanded, state and federal officials announced Friday.

Assistance for Harmon County was expanded to include aid for local governments, while assistance for Payne and Woodward Counties has been expanded to include all categories of public assistance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.

FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh said the additional assistance was approved after officials reviewed damage data gathered by federal and state disaster recovery officials.

Payne and Woodward Counties originally were designated for emergency and protective services and debris removal only in the Feb. 1 disaster relief declaration by President Bush.

Harmon County was added for individual assistance on Feb. 7, but previously had not been eligible for any type of public assistance.

Officials also announced Friday that $18.9 million in federal funds has been obligated to help 12 rural electric cooperatives and one municipality cover the cost of emergency measures taken during the ice storm.

``Our continuing commitment is not only to help meet the recover needs of devastated families and businesses, but to ensure that the vital community services they also depend on are restored as quickly and efficiently as possible,'' Allbaugh said.

Almost $3 million in disaster housing grants, low-interest disaster loans and individual and family grants have been issued to more than 20 percent of the 24,253 applicants, the Oklahoma Department of Civil Emergency Management said Friday.

The department also said victims of the ice storm have until Wednesday, March 13, to apply for disaster unemployment assistance.

Individuals who were living or working in one of the 45 designated counties at the time of the disaster and who are unemployed as a result may be eligible.
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