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franklin county times

State, county still re-building six months after storms

Thursday will mark the six-month anniversary of the deadly April 27 tornadoes that ripped across much of Alabama, including Franklin County.

Since that deadly outbreak, which killed more than 200 people in Alabama, including 26 in Franklin County, the state has worked with volunteers from across the nation in its rebuilding efforts.

Great progress has been made in the six months since the historic outbreak of storms and tornadoes changed the landscape of numerous Alabama communities.

To date, approximately $530 million in federal funds has been approved to help survivors, businesses, communities and the state of Alabama rebuild safer and stronger. While grants are still being processed, officials with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency say long-term recovery is now the focus.

“We’ve come a long way in cleaning up and rebuilding our communities because of the spirit and resilience of the people of this great state,” said AEMA State Coordinating Officer Jeff Byard.

“And now people in many of these communities are contributing their voices, their ideas to the long-term recovery of their neighborhoods and towns.”

From the very beginning of the disaster, the state and FEMA have placed great emphasis on the Long-Term Community Recovery program to empower communities to develop step-by-step recovery plans. Local leaders can use these plans in rebuilding based on community needs and wants.

To date, almost a dozen Alabama communities have requested assistance in their long-term recovery planning, and around 40 related public meetings have taken place across the state.

At these gatherings, community members come together to identify their community’s recovery needs and wishes, and to plan and prioritize projects to support their shared vision.

Throughout the process, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and FEMA’s Long-Term Community Recovery teams have provided support and technical expertise. In the months ahead, ADECA and FEMA will continue to serve in an advisory role as communities advance toward long-term rebuilding and renewal.

“Long-term recovery is just as important on the individual level,” said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Joe M. Girot.

“One of the keys to rebuilding communities is the successful recovery of the people who live in those communities. So far, $175 million in federal grants and loans have gone to Alabama families and businesses to help them re-build their lives.”

That figure includes more than $72.8 million in FEMA grant money to help Alabamians meet housing and other needs and more than $102.8 million from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s low-interest disaster loan program – the largest source of federal rebuilding funds.

More than 8,000 individuals and families have been provided rental assistance or shelter in temporary mobile homes. The state and FEMA continue working with survivors still receiving temporary housing assistance to help them locate a permanent place to live.

Still, for some survivors, more assistance is sometimes needed. That’s where Long-Term Recovery Committees (LTRCs) come in.

With support and guidance from the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and FEMA, LTRCs coordinate scores of volunteer and service agencies whose case managers help storm survivors across the state. They help survivors solve problems ranging from clean up, repair and home rebuilding to housing assistance and mental health counseling, services that survivors might not otherwise afford.

Storm survivors who need specific assistance should dial 2-1-1 to reach Alabama’s social services referral network to request help from the LTRC in their communities.

As recovery work continues across Alabama by survivors, volunteers, the private sector, and local, state and federal agencies, officials encourage everyone to learn from this disaster and be better prepared for future events.

“As far as we’ve come in six months, this mission is far from over,” said Byard.

“That is why it is imperative for the AEMA staff and the rest of Alabamians not to forget the lives lost as a result of the April 27 storms and the April 15 storms. Each of us can honor the memory of the victims by making sure our friends, family members and neighbors take severe weather preparedness seriously.”

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