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No federal payments for individual damage in Georgia tornado

July 2, 2021 GMT

NEWNAN, Ga. (AP) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency says individual residents won’t get disaster assistance after a March 26 tornado damaged more than 1,700 homes southwest of Atlanta.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that FEMA rejected an appeal from Gov. Brian Kemp for payments to individuals after initially turning down the request, finding the damage was not severe enough to warrant individual assistance. President Joe Biden in May approved assistance to governments and electric cooperatives in eight Georgia counties after March storms. Government aid usually requires a lower threshold of damage.

A tornado stretched nearly 40 miles (65 kilometers) across Heard, Coweta and Fayette counties, causing extensive damage in Newnan. Officials estimate 70 homes were destroyed. Two schools were heavily damaged. The Georgia Department of Insurance estimated the storm prompted more than $75 million in auto and home insurance claims.

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Many residents with uninsured property losses are struggling, Newnan Mayor Keith Brady said.

“A lot of the people we are talking about here are on fixed incomes and they have no way of going out and raising the money that they are going to need to put their lives back in order with their property,” Brady said. “I am just astounded that the federal government has decided that they don’t want to come down here and help these individuals. They have failed these citizens.”

FEMA said in a statement Friday that a review of Kemp’s appeal found the agency’s original evaluation was correct.

“The biggest factor when determining the need for either public or individual assistance is whether the state and local jurisdictions have the resources available to meet the recovery needs,” the agency said.

James Woodall, Georgia’s NAACP state president, called FEMA’s decision “egregious and un-American.”

“Families are suffering through no fault of their own,” he said. “We detest this lack of action to the highest degree.”