CHARLESTON, W.Va. --The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved individual assistance for four West Virginia counties affected by the summer's derecho.
FEMA had initially denied the state's request for individual assistance for 24 counties. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appealed, asking for individual assistance for Kanawha, Nicholas, Raleigh and Fayette counties.
FEMA announced Wednesday it had approved individual assistance for those counties.
Forty two percent of the homes destroyed by the derecho in West Virginia were in Kanawha, Nicholas, Raleigh and Fayette counties. Those counties also had 60 percent of the state's homes that sustained major damage, according to FEMA.
"I'm happy my appeal for FEMA to reconsider the needs of our families and businesses was well received," Tomblin said in a prepared statement. "These federal funds will provide much needed help to West Virginians in the hardest hit areas of our state. We continue to evaluate the possibility of adding additional counties to the declaration, because we know how important this assistance is for many families throughout West Virginia."
The agency had previously approved assistance for state and local governments to rebuild infrastructure. Individual assistance means that residents in approved counties can get help repairing heavily damaged or destroyed homes. Individual assistance also covers expenses related to cleaning and replacing personal property.
U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin and Rep. Nick Rahall, who wrote letters to President Obama supporting Tomblin's appeal, thanked FEMA for the assistance.
"This is such great news. I am so thankful FEMA recognized just how tough these storms were on so many families across our state," Rockefeller said in a prepared statement. "Many homes were damaged and lives uprooted, and I am glad that FEMA reversed its decision. West Virginians can now put this difficult time behind them and move forward with their lives.
"This is wonderful news for the families that are struggling financially after the devastating derecho hit our state."
"When I toured the areas that were damaged after the storms, I was so impressed by how people came together to help their neighbors, but no community could recover from this without help," Manchin said in a statement.
Rahall said he hopes that Wednesday's decision "opens the door to additional aid for other individuals and families struggling to rebuild in the aftermath of the storm."
Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper also touted FEMA's decision, calling it the result of hard work by Tomblin, Manchin, Rockefeller and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.
"I am thrilled that county residents are eligible for federal assistance," Carper said in a prepared statement. "These folks have been through a lot and need help getting back on their feet again."
Individual assistance does not cover food lost during the power outage or generator purchases. Anyone who contacted FEMA for assistance before Wednesday should contact the agency again to apply for individual assistance, said Don Jacks, external affairs director at FEMA.
To apply for individual assistance, visit www.disasterassistance.gov or call 800-621-FEMA.Reach Lori Kersey at lori.ker...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.