After a federally-declared disaster, the U.S. Small Business Administration issues low-interest loans to help homeowners and businesses recover. The agency disbursed over $20 million to Oklahomans following last year’s severe weather outbreak in the central part of the state, so we wanted to look into exactly what it takes to get one of those loans.
In the year since a series of severe storms devastated Central Oklahoma, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded nearly $146 million to the city of Moore and the state to help with recovery. But so far, only a fraction of that has been spent, and spending the money has turned out to be harder than you’d think.
When federal aid started pouring into the state after last years’ storms, FEMA designated $4 million for hazard mitigation – a tool used to protect communities from future severe weather through things like storm shelters. But the communities you’d think might receive this kind of money sometimes don’t.
The tornadoes and storms that devastated Oklahoma and killed 34 last year triggered the release of tens of millions of dollars in federal and state aid that will keep flowing for years.
To date, the federal government has approved up to $257 million in disaster assistance of various kinds to help re build damage and help victims of the winds and flooding that struck between May 18 and June 2, 2013, and to mitigate future risks.
The state has contributed an additional $10.5 million, and private insurers are paying about $1.1 billion. Charities also have pumped in aid.
The relief aid stemming from Disaster No. 4117, as it is called by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is arriving through several channels, heading ultimately to state and local agencies, contractors, businesses and individuals.
Some Oklahoma farmers say there's "cautious optimism" that patchy rains this summer will make a dent in the drought afflicting much of the state and help save crops and cattle.
But they concede conditions could change quickly, like they did last year when Oklahoma settled back into the oppressive heat of the summer months. Crops wilted and hay shortages were prevalent across a large swath of the state.
Tim Bartram, with the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association, says if periodic rains suddenly dry up, many farmers will be left with a familiar picture from last season.