Feds provide crucial help in tornado disaster

GettyImages/Niccolò Ubalducci Photographer - Stormchaser

Federal agencies and employees have been stepping up to support state and local officials assisting with recovery from the massive storm.

This past week, extraordinary December tornadoes ravaged the Midwest and South -- with federal agencies and employees stepping in to support state and local officials to save lives and assist in managing the massive storm front’s aftermath.

Taking a lead role is the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“FEMA is working with its federal, state and local partners as well as non-governmental agencies to support needs of areas affected by the tornado outbreak,” the agency said in a release. In the immediate response, the agency provided 52 generators, 30,000 meals, 45,000 liters of water, cots, blankets, infant toddler kits and medical equipment and supplies. Much more has been done in the few days since.

“On behalf of everyone at FEMA, our hearts and prayers are with all the families and lives who have been impacted by these devastating storms,” FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said. “This operation remains a lifesaving and life sustaining mission. Our support to Kentucky will align with their resource requests to make sure we are giving first responders anything they need at this time.”

Federal employees under Criswell’s and those in other agencies helping in the emergency joined in mourning the losses. Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) stepped up and rallied his troops, praising rescue and support personnel for their valiant work.

“AFGE extends our sincerest condolences to the friends, family members, and coworkers of all those who lost their lives during the past weekend’s tragedy and everyone who was affected by these devastating storms,” Kelley said. “We also extend our appreciation to all of the dedicated first responders from FEMA and other agencies who are assisting in the response and recovery efforts.”

The National Treasury Employees Union likewise rose to the challenge, highlighting its longstanding emergency grants program, available to affected federal employees.

“Employees may be eligible for a grant of up to $1,000 to help with temporary lodging, major home repairs not covered by insurance, and replacement beds,” NTEU announced. “Those impacted can apply for help through the NTEU Disaster Fund, administered through the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund, online.”

President Joe Biden called the outbreak likely “one of the largest tornado outbreaks in our history” and declared a disaster emergency ensuring that funds from Washington will cover the entire initial costs of handling the catastrophe. Additional federal agencies have moved in to help, for example an Occupational Safety and Health Administration team investigating the collapse of an Edwardsville, Ill. Amazon warehouse that killed six.

The tornado outbreak of Friday and Saturday (Dec. 10-11) heavily impacted parts of Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee and, most of all, Kentucky, killing at least 90 people and resulting in billions of dollars in damages, according to early estimates. Another line of rare end-of-year extreme weather hit the northern plains on Wednesday (Dec. 15) causing less loss of life but further extensive damage.

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