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State Is Denied Aid for Tornado Victims

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After the tornado of Dec. 26, the state has made efforts to rebuild and assist those who experienced the brunt of the storm’s damage. Recent updates reveal that the Federal Government has denied individual assistance to victims of the storms.

“…it has been determined that the impact to individuals and households from this event was not of the severity and magnitude to warrant the designation of Individual Assistance, ” FEMA said in a statement released at the beginning of February.

A total of 98 homes were damaged in Sunnyvale. After the town had a few weeks to assess and handle much of the chaos, The Sentinel had the opportunity to interview Town Manager Sean Fox in January.

“With this storm not being as devastating for our community as it was others, we did not want to get the county too involved,” Fox said. “Dallas County kept offering us assistance – as they should – but we realized there were other communities that were harder hit, and we’d rather them focus those resources there.We wanted to take care of our own, and that is probably what I am most proud of as far as Sunnyvale. We just rolled up our sleeves and went to work.”

The storm hit parts of Garland, Rowlett, and Sunnyvale, and while Sunnyvale was not hit as bad as neighboring areas, many citizens were left without shelter and resources. In order for the town to receive federal assistance, the EF-2 tornado had to be classified as a disaster. By being declared a disaster area, federal aid could then be distributed to individuals in order to assist with rebuilding.  

“A lot of the focus after the tornado has been on getting this area declared a disaster zone,” said Fox,  “because that essentially opens up the purse strings to allow FEMA to come in and help.”

Since the The Sentinel’s interview with Sean Fox in January, much has changed.

“The recent denial of the “Individual Assistance” request made by Governor Abbott is unfortunate, as it now means there will be no federal assistance (FEMA) for those Sunnyvale residents, as well as all the other residents in North Texas, who suffered uninsured or underinsured losses from the tornado,” Fox said. “We reached out to every one of our residents that were affected to inform them of the decision and relayed that unless Governor Abbott appeals, and FEMA subsequently overturns their decision, assistance through FEMA programs will not be available, but that we remain ready to answer questions and help in any way we can.”

This new federal decision has affected the way the town will continue to respond to the damage experienced by residents. While public losses have qualified for assistance, the claims for individual loss have been rejected. This decision has left the town to decide how to assist residents without aid from the government.

“Sunnyvale has never had a tornado before. It’s one of those things – you try to have a game plan, but as soon as the first blow is thrown,” Fox said, “the game plan changes.”

Photo credit: Larry Allen

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State Is Denied Aid for Tornado Victims