Gov: Ohio request for disaster declaration denied

By Kantele Franko

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, March 10 2012 3:31 p.m. MST

FILE - In this Friday, March 9, 2012 photo, Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, center, helps with post-tornado cleanup in Moscow, Ohio. About 35 Bengals office personnel and a few players volunteered to help at the town that was heavily damaged last Friday by a tornado. Gov. John Kasich says the U.S. government denied his request seeking maximum federal aid to help a tornado-damaged county in southwest Ohio. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports Kasich told county officials in an email late Friday, March 9, 2012 that his request was turned down. He says he'll seek a different type of disaster relief this weekend through the Small Business Administration.

Al Behrman, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

COLUMBUS, Ohio — State and local officials met by phone Saturday to discuss recovery efforts in a tornado-damaged southwest Ohio county as Gov. John Kasich sought alternative federal help after the U.S. government denied his request seeking maximum federal aid.

Kasich had asked President Barack Obama to issue a disaster declaration for Clermont County to allow as much relief funding as possible for residents hit by severe storms a week ago, but the governor said he was sad to report that the request was turned down. He didn't say why the request was rejected.

Kasich initially told federal authorities that additional assistance wasn't necessary as the damage was being evaluated.

During a conference call among local leaders and state agencies, Ohio Emergency Management Agency Director Nancy Dragani said it wouldn't be practical to appeal Obama's decision because it would impede other forms of state assistance.

Instead, Kasich was applying for disaster relief through the Small Business Administration. That could give some homeowners and renters access to tens of thousands of dollars in low-interest loans to help them replace furniture and rebuild their houses, Dragani said. The money would have to be repaid.

Kasich also promised help for residents in need of somewhere to stay because of the damage.

"I'm going to continue to work with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to try to find a solution to the housing shortage the disaster has created and I hope that we can find an innovative, outside-the-box solution," he said in a statement.

Three people were killed and hundreds of buildings were damaged in southwest Ohio by the storm system that killed dozens across five states, including a council member in the hard-hit Ohio River village of Moscow.

The governor has activated two state-funded programs to help local governments and low-income residents pay for storm cleanup and recovery costs. The state treasurer also has said homeowners and small businesses dealing with damage or hardship because of the severe weather may be eligible for reduced rates on some loans, such as funding for construction and restoration projects.

Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, http://www.enquirer.com