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Tomblin requests individual FEMA assistance for 20 more W.Va. counties

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Tuesday asked the federal government for individual assistance in 20 West Virginia counties affected by the June 29 derecho.

Tomblin previously won an appeal to secure individual assistance in Kanawha, Nicholas, Raleigh and Fayette counties after the Federal Emergency Management Agency had initially turned down his request for individual assistance for 24 counties.

Since Tomblin won the appeal, he's been working with federal officials to include the additional counties, according to a press release from his office.

"Our families, seniors and individuals in these 20 counties need additional help to fully recover from the June storm," Tomblin said in a news release. "While I'm grateful to the many individuals and organizations who have worked hard to help families and businesses throughout our state, the need stretches beyond their means.

"An expansion of the July federal disaster declaration to include individual assistance can mean the world of difference for many," he said.

The governor's office has done a more comprehensive assessment of the damage than before and officials think the new information will be enough to gain FEMA's approval.

"We have more comprehensive information that we feel will allow us that FEMA assistance," said Amy Shuler Goodwin, Tomblin's spokeswoman.

The June 29 derecho and subsequent storms knocked out power to about 680,000 customers across West Virginia and left three people dead.

Tomblin wants individual assistance to include the Individuals and Households Program, Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Disaster Legal Services, Disaster Supplemental Food Nutrition Assistance Program and Crisis Counseling, as well as Small Business Administration disaster loans.

In a joint statement Tuesday, Rep. Nick Rahall, Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Sen. Joe Manchin, all D-W.Va., added their support to the governor's request.

"The derecho that hit West Virginia in June caused widespread damage across the state," Rockefeller said in the statement. "Today, I'm joining my colleagues in urging FEMA to fully recognize the devastation this storm caused families in West Virginia by opening the door to individual assistance to more of those impacted.

"It's so important that we help West Virginians in these 20 additional counties rebuild," Rockefeller said.

The additional counties Tomblin is seeking assistance for include Boone, Cabell, Clay, Greenbrier, Harrison, Jackson, Lincoln, Mason, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Monroe, Pocahontas, Putnam, Randolph, Roane, Tyler, Webster, Wetzel and Wood.

FEMA spokesman Frank Blake said in an email that the federal agency has reacted quickly to Tomblin's request.

"His request has already been [forwarded] to the FEMA Regional Office in Philadelphia for evaluation. Their evaluation and his request will then be transmitted to FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C. for a decision," Blake said. "His request for 20

more [individual assistance] designated counties is already in process."

Residents of Fayette, Kanawha, Nicholas and Raleigh counties, which FEMA has already approved for individual assistance, have until Oct. 22 to file a claim for disaster unemployment assistance, Workforce West Virginia announced Tuesday.

Disaster unemployment assistance is for those who aren't eligible under the state's regular unemployment insurance program. Farmers, those who are self-employed and others who are denied regular unemployment insurance benefits may be eligible for disaster unemployment assistance.

For more information about filing a claim for disaster unemployment assistance, contact any Workforce West Virginia office at www.workforcewv.org or at 1-800-252-5627.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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