Residents whose property was damaged by one of the dozen tornadoes that tore across south Louisiana on Feb. 23 need not wait for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide financial assistance.
The federal agency on Monday denied Gov. John Bel Edwards’ appeal for a major disaster declaration following the severe storms, the Governor’s Office said Monday.
In a letter to Edwards on April 29, FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate reiterated findings from FEMA’s earlier denial. Fugate said the 12 tornadoes, which killed two people in a St. James Parish RV park and injured dozens more, were “not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration.”
“Therefore, I must inform you that your appeal for a major disaster declaration is denied,” Fugate wrote.
In Edwards’ original application in March, the governor argued that the tornadoes, combined with flooding at the beginning of the year and more widespread flooding in early March, were due to a weather- intensifying El Niño cycle in the Pacific Ocean and the declaration was needed to help recover before hurricane season starts June 1.
But, as part of the initial request, Edwards was seeking an exception to get FEMA public assistance for Assumption, St. James, St. John the Baptist, Iberville and Livingston parishes.
Edwards’ April 22 appeal only applied to individual and public assistance for Assumption, St. James and St. John.
Public assistance allows local governments to be reimbursed for debris removal and covers damage to public structures and other storm-related costs. Individual assistance helps people recover.
“We wanted to make every effort to get federal assistance for those impacted by this event,” Edwards said in a statement Monday. “Unfortunately, FEMA did not agree with our assessment.”
President Barack Obama previously issued disaster declarations for the Mississippi River flooding from the early part of the year and the March floods.
Edwards said he will ask the Small Business Administration to issue an administrative declaration tied to the tornadoes. That would enable the SBA to help individuals and businesses with low-interest disaster assistance loans.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.