Disaster Relief Available for Victims of Southern Storms & Tornadoes

This week the United States witnessed a cluster of some of the deadliest storms in over 20 years. These storms, which included high winds and hail, were responsible for at least 55 deaths and millions of dollars in structural damage. The National Weather Service issued more than 1,000 tornado warnings in 11 states last Tuesday, giving citizens some chance to get to safety before trees, power lines, schools and homes were subject to the devastating storm winds.

Although there were no comprehensive estimates yet on damages, the president of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee estimated the campus' damage at close to $40 million, though luckily there were no reports of life threatening injuries to students or faculty. Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky and Alabama were also hard hit. In Pope County, Arkansas, the Sherriff reported that 60 to 80 structures had been completely ?blown away.?

President George W. Bush visited Tennessee this past Friday and has already spoken with each governor of the impacted states to offer support. ?Prayers can help and so can the government,? President Bush said Wednesday. FEMA is working closely with its state and local partners to assess damage and identify needs in the affected states. Specialists from the agency are on site to support the response efforts already underway. GovBenefits.gov is also available with detailed disaster assistance program descriptions and contact information for disaster victims.

Below are some of the programs featured on the site. For a complete list of disaster relief programs, use the GovBenefits.gov Benefits Quick Search and select the Disaster Relief category.

Casualities, Disasters, and Theft
The program offers tax relief for casualty losses that result from the destruction of, or damage to your property from any sudden, unexpected, or unusual event such as a flood, hurricane, tornado, fire, earthquake or even volcanic eruption.

Crisis Counseling
The Crisis Counseling program provides immediate crisis counseling services to victims of a major Federally declared disaster for the purpose of relieving mental health problems caused or aggravated by a major disaster or its aftermath. Assistance provided is short-term in nature and provided at no cost to the disaster victims.

Disaster Housing Program
The Disaster Housing Program provides housing assistance in the form of a grant to individuals whose homes sustained damage as a result of a Presidentially declared disaster. To qualify for assistance, the damaged home must be your primary residence, and be located in the disaster-declared area. If insured, a claim should be filed. This program provides grants for lodging expense reimbursement, minimal home repairs and rental assistance.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance
The Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) program provides unemployment benefits to individuals who have become unemployed as a result of a Presidentially declared major disaster.