The Advocate- Federal disaster declared in Orleans, Livingston parishes after tornadoes
President Donald Trump on Saturday approved a federal disaster declaration for Orleans and Livingston parishes following powerful tornadoes that devastated New Orleans East and Watson on Tuesday.
The declaration, signed a day after Gov. John Bel Edwards officially requested it, allows people in the two parishes who suffered damage from the tornadoes to apply for individual assistance.
The federal government is still reviewing whether to grant public assistance to local governments in those areas, according to the declaration.
Other parishes could be added to the declaration if the damage found there reaches certain thresholds.
“This week, South Louisiana was hit by another round of devastating storms,” Edwards said in a news release. “This declaration is key to getting assistance into the hands of the families who’ve been impacted. Everyone, from the local, state and federal level, have been instrumental in responding to these tornadoes. I want to thank President Trump for his quick assistance, and I commit to the people of South Louisiana that we will do everything within our power to help them rebuild as quickly as possible."
The EF-3 tornadoes, which devastated areas of New Orleans East and Watson with wind speeds of up to 140 mph, were part of a storm system that left 39 people injured and severely damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes on Tuesday.
Four other tornadoes were recorded in the state, including an EF-2 that moved from Killian to Mandeville with wind speeds of up to 120 mph.
Preliminary reports from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness found at least 700 homes were damaged in five parishes.
Hundreds of volunteers were expected to be on the ground in New Orleans East over the weekend to assist in the recovery.
Edwards, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the state’s congressional delegation all requested a disaster declaration, which is needed before federal assistance can be provided as part of the recovery.
“This emergency declaration is key to helping the residents of New Orleans East get back on their feet quickly by providing money for temporary housing and home repair,” Landrieu said in a news release.
Federal disaster aid programs that can be made available under the disaster declaration include: rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable; grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance; grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other aid programs; unemployment payments up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits; low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance; loans for small businesses that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems; loans for farmers to cover production and property losses; crisis counseling; and income tax assistance for filing casualty losses.