KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Joplin will receive $113 million in fresh federal assistance to help the recovery from the devastating May 2011 tornado, federal officials announced Wednesday.
The money, which is coming from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s community development block grants, will be used for long-term recovery in areas with the greatest unmet needs. The massive E-F5 tornado killed 161 people and flattened a large swath of the southwest Missouri city, destroying thousands of homes and commercial buildings.
“We’ll put it to good use,” Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr said in a phone interview. “It has been a good day for Joplin.”
He said the city had requested $1.27 billion with a list of projects that included tree replacement and home reconstruction assistance. It had mapped out a plan for spending $45.2 million that HUD awarded previously but was just considering how to spend the latest influx.
“I wasn’t aware we were going to get any more,” Rohr said. “This is a needed shot in the arm but one that we had not counted on.”
The new money is part of $16 billion in community development block grants that were included in an emergency relief measure that President Barack Obama signed in January. Victims of Superstorm Sandy will receive the biggest share of the money.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said the block grant raises the amount of federal funding Joplin has received to more than $350 million. The Missouri Democrat announced last week that the Joplin school district will receive about $3 million in federal funding to help rebuild and re-equip a vocational training site.
“Days after the tornado struck, I saw the destruction and hurt of this community firsthand” McCaskill said in a news release. “But that’s not what amazed me the most—it was the strength and determination of everyone I met to rebuild and reclaim their community. These federal funds will only further the efforts to rebuild and recover.”
The state’s other U.S. senator, Roy Blunt, also touted the funding in a news release. In addition to the money Joplin received, HUD announced Wednesday that the rest of Missouri will split $11.8 million to help recover from severe storms, tornadoes and flooding in the spring of 2011.
“When a disaster exceeds the ability of communities and states, the federal government has a responsibility to help people rebuild,” said Blunt, a Republican. “I’m pleased these funds will continue to help local leaders, businesses, and families in Missouri recover and reinvest for the future.”
The need remains great, said Doreen Finnie, development director for the nonprofit Rebuild Joplin, which helps rebuild and repair tornado-damaged homes,
“We still have a lot of families that through being underinsured or uninsured or even through contractor fraud are still not in a home,” Finnie said in a phone interview. “And we are still building homes and doing massive repairs as a result of the tornado.”