Federal disaster declaration sought for March 28 Jonesboro tornado

Nearly $500 million in damage reported due to tornado, Gov. Hutchinson says
Updated: Apr. 24, 2020 at 9:49 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Individuals, businesses, and groups can receive help under a federal disaster declaration due to the March 28 tornado in Jonesboro, emergency officials said Friday.

After a preliminary assessment is done by state and county officials of damage, initial assessments were submitted for both residential and non-residential structures.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also worked with state and local officials to get a closer estimate of damage. The work was completed this week.

Director of Craighead County Office of Emergency Management Anthony Coy says coronavirus and the tornado caused area-wide impact.

“It doesn’t just affect just those two places. It affects all of Craighead County," he says. "It does not help whatsoever that this disaster has occurred in the midst of another federal disaster that no one has ever been through before.”

A presidential request letter was signed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson Friday morning, which now goes to President Donald Trump for his review.

Gov. Hutchinson said Friday the damage during the tornado was massive and that the state’s congressional delegation supports the declaration.

“We itemized almost half a billion dollars in damage to the City of Jonesboro, which should be sufficient to qualify for a federal disaster declaration. I want to mention, that request is in. I know that our fellow delegation will be supportive of that request as well,” Gov. Hutchinson said.

According to officials, the request was for individual assistance for homeowners and renters.

If a homeowner or renter is approved for the help, it will cover losses not covered by insurance.

Renters are eligible and landlords are not for this kind of help, with the amounts given on a case-by-case basis.

Officials also said that if individual assistance is approved, there is an automatic component for business assistance from the Small Business Administration. Also, landlords of rental property are eligible for help.

However, if the homeowner or renter does not receive individual assistance, they can receive help from the SBA but it must be approved.

Officials also said that if the area does not receive federal assistance on an individual basis, state assistance would be requested.

Government agencies and utilities, like the Jonesboro Municipal Airport, City Water & Light and Craighead Electric, can also receive help under the declaration.

The help includes funding to cover losses that are not covered by insurance or other federal funding, officials said.

Any help under $131,000 would be provided up-front while anything over $131,000 would cover actual costs and would allow the agency to be reimbursed.

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