Lexington, KY, Mar 15, 2012 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced comprehensive outreach efforts are under way to assess damage and assist rural Midwest and Southern communities in the wake of recent deadly storms, now predicted to be the first billion-dollar disaster of 2012.
“These storms struck the very heart of rural America,” said Vilsack. “USDA regional and local staff are on the front lines, and for many, it’s personal: they live and work alongside the storm victims. I’ve directed our expertise and resources be put to the fullest possible use.”
In addition to assessing the damage to Rural Development-funded projects encompassing the agency’s Business and Industry, Energy, and Community Facilities programs, Agency officials are looking at ways to help hundreds of people displaced from their homes. In rural communities, Rural Development provides FEMA with regular information as to vacant units in multi-family housing complexes financed by the agency. In the case of disasters, displaced residents can receive priority placement for vacant units in multi-family housing complexes.
State Director Tom Fern said many Kentucky families are struggling to put their lives back together and Rural Development is working with other federal and state agencies to assist in the most effective ways possible.
Fern further stated that Rural Development staff across the state – from the 12 area offices to the state office in Lexington – are available to provide information on agency resources and disaster assistance. For contact information for Kentucky’s Rural Development offices and the counties they serve, click here.
“For those in the hardest hit areas, information on disaster assistance programs is available at FEMA disaster recovery centers in East Bernstadt, Louisa, Paintsville, West Liberty and Frenchburg,” said Fern.
Additionally, Rural Water Circuit Riders are working with national and state rural water associations throughout the tornado-ravaged states to assist in assessing damage and helping communities get their systems back online. This is critical to the health and safety of rural communities.
USDA Rural Development offers a variety of resources for states and individuals affected by the recent disasters. Individuals can also apply for other types of federal disaster assistance at www.disasterassistance.gov.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s current count of confirmed tornadoes from the March 2 outbreak stands at 42, with damage reported in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Earlier this week, Secretary Vilsack announced $19.7 million of financial and technical assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program to help communities rebuild and repair damages caused by flooding, drought and other natural disasters.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $165 billion in affordable loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).