President Bush has declared a major disaster because of tornado damage in New Mexico’s Curry and Quay counties, making residents in the eastern New Mexico region eligible for federal funds.
Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.
The declaration also makes federal funding available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.
“This means relief is on the way for residents who are struggling to take care of their families and businesses and get back on their feet,” Gov. Bill Richardson said after he was notified of the disaster declaration.
Richardson signed a request last Thursday for a presidential disaster declaration for the two counties plus Roosevelt County after tornadoes destroyed dozens of homes and damaged hundreds more on March 23-24. About three dozen injuries were reported; one woman was killed in Clovis.
The worst damage was reported in Clovis in Curry County and Logan in Quay County. Initial assessments found that more than 500 homes were damaged, with 75 classified as destroyed.
Additional designations could be made later if warranted by further damage assessments, FEMA said.
Richardson and the state’s congressional delegation had pushed for the presidential disaster declaration during meetings last week in Washington, D.C.
“Lives were disrupted by these storms and this FEMA aid should help them pick up the pieces and put their lives back together,” said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.
The U.S. Small Business Administration also announced that it will make low-interest disaster loans available to residents and businesses.
Loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners for repairs or replacement of damaged property, and businesses can borrow up to $1.5 million. The SBA said interest rates can be as low as 2.875 percent for homeowners and 4 percent for businesses.
Last week, state officials paired with FEMA representatives to estimate how much it would cost to rebuild those areas damaged by the tornadoes and if there was sufficient damage to qualify as a federal disaster. One team toured Logan and Quay County and made a similar assessment for Roosevelt County, while a second team focused on Curry County.
FEMA Director David Paulison has named Justin A. Dombrowski as the federal coordinating officer for recovery operations.
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