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States of Emergency Go Beyond Gulf Coast

Bush declarations make Katrina funds available to states that are helping evacuees, even a little.

September 16, 2005|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The dire conditions created by Hurricane Katrina may be confined to the Gulf Coast, but on paper the emergency is all over the country.

President Bush has declared that Katrina-related emergencies exist in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Some states, such as California and Massachusetts, are far removed from Katrina's wrath.

Other states, most notably Texas, are looking after thousands of evacuees, putting a severe burden on local services.

But it does not take that much to qualify as an emergency.

North Dakota, for example, has taken in 38 families. It plans to use the money freed up by the emergency declaration to pay for their housing, medical care and education expenses.

Montana requested the federal aid before it found out the state would not be housing large numbers of evacuees, according to the governor's office. The state plans to request about $25,000 to pay for a hurricane hot line set up for employees and others who wanted to find ways to help.

"We appreciate being eligible to cover certain costs," said Sarah Elliott, spokeswoman for Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

Nicol Andrews, a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the emergency designation was available to states helping evacuees. "The states have obviously welcomed with open arms these evacuees, and the president is giving them a way to pay for it," she said.

Full federal reimbursement is available for "emergency protective measures" to save lives and protect public health and safety, according to White House announcements.

The states most directly affected by the hurricane -- Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi -- also have received the more serious designation of disaster areas. That provides more significant help with needs such as rebuilding damaged infrastructure.

The 10 states that do not have Katrina-related emergency or disaster declarations are Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wyoming.

Three of those states have active disaster declarations for other reasons -- Maine and New York for spring flooding, and Wyoming for a tornado.

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