Henry Disappointed At Federal Denial Of Winter Storm Help

Friday, March 16th 2007, 7:33 pm

By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which last week denied individual assistance to Oklahomans whose homes and businesses were damaged by winter storms, rejected the state's final appeal Friday.

Governor Brad Henry said he was "extremely disappointed" by the decision that denies federal help to thousands of residents in nine Oklahoma counties who sustained more than $5 million in damage from a devastating round of winter storms in January.

About 61% of those who reported damage to homes and businesses in the counties had no insurance or were under-insured, authorities said.

"It is stunning that they would deny our request when they have granted individual assistance in the past under similar circumstances," Henry said. FEMA granted individual assistance for victims of the Christmas 2000 and January 2002 ice storms.

FEMA previously granted public assistance for 44 counties affected by the latest storms. Under that designation, the federal government pays 75% of the cost of debris removal, infrastructure repairs, emergency protective measures and restoration of utilities. State and local governments each pay 12.5%.

FEMA denied the state's original request for individual assistance and the governor appealed. Michelann Ooten, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said no other appeals are possible.

"We're frustrated as well," Ooten said. The agency plans to refer Oklahomans with damaged homes and businesses to the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross.

"We will work with these individuals on a case-by-case basis," she said.

Henry said his office, OEM and Oklahoma's entire congressional delegation have stressed the need for individual assistance in the affected counties and backed up the request with hard figures documenting damage suffered by individuals.

"That FEMA would continue to deny Oklahomans needed assistance is unconscionable, and I will continue to do all I can to get help for those most affected by the ice storms," the governor said.

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