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Ohio Still Waiting On Federal Aid Three Weeks After Tornadoes

Asa Holzschuh's family arrived at it house at 3:30 am. They spent the morning cleaning of the remain's of his neighbor's roof outside of Laurelville, Ohio, after a tornado tore through their property.
Olivia Miltner
Asa Holzschuh's family arrived at it house at 3:30 am. They spent the morning cleaning of the remain's of his neighbor's roof outside of Laurelville, Ohio, after a tornado tore through their property.

Gov. Mike DeWine says Ohio has received federal assistance for residents of 10 counties impacted by tornadoes, severe storms, straight-line winds, flooding and landslides.

DeWine's news release says Republican President Donald Trump issued a disaster declaration Tuesday.

The designation will allow FEMA aid and other federal disaster assistance from agencies, including the United States Small Business Administration, to begin flowing to individuals and businesses affected by 21 tornadoes that touched down around Memorial Day.

Among the hardest hit areas was Trotwood, where hundreds of properties remain damaged. The city has set up a disaster-relief fund to help displaced residents and business owners get back on their feet.

At the city’s 2019 “State of the City” address Monday night, Mayor Mary McDonald told a crowd of more than 150 people the city is unified in its recovery efforts.

“We lost so much within our community, but we gained so much within the city of Trotwood. We've gained a trust and a belief in ourselves that we didn't have before, that we didn't show before, and oftentimes it has to come through situations like this, unfortunately," she says. "And how do we keep that going? We keep that going. That's how we do that.”

Trotwood emergency officials met Monday afternoon with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in Dayton to update him on tornado recovery.

Also in attendance were officials from Dayton – including Mayor Nan Whaley – Beavercreek, Celina, Montgomery, Greene and Mercer Counties, Ohio Emergency Management, the Dayton Foundation, the Dayton Chamber of Commerce and the Dayton chapter of the Red Cross.

The Red Cross reports its case workers are handling 1,000 relief cases, but officials stress the agency is just one of a number of organizations assisting tornado survivors, including the Salvation Army, which is estimated to be helping around 600 people, St. Vincent de Paul and others, and any case numbers are likely an undercount. 

Officials told Brown many homeowners and renters affected by the storm are struggling with underinsurance, a key factor in FEMA's damage assessment, which looks at uninsured storm damage.

In the three weeks after the storm, Brown, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and other lawmakers repeatedly pressed President Donald Trump to grant DeWine's recent request for a formal Presidential Disaster Declaration.

"Gov. DeWine did what he should have done and moved on it as quickly as these things can happen, then… as soon as he made the designation from the state, Sen. Portman and I began the efforts in Washington,” Brown says. “My understanding is that the president will move, we hope, on this quickly.”

Beginning Memorial Day night, 21 tornadoes touched down in Montgomery, Greene, Mercer, Miami, Auglaize, Darke, Hocking, Muskingum, Perry and Pickaway counties.

A preliminary damage assessment the first week of June by federal and state agencies identified 942 homes and buildings either destroyed or significantly damaged. The assessment found 837 other homes and buildings received minor damage or were slightly affected.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jess Mador comes to WYSO from Knoxville NPR-station WUOT, where she created an interactive multimedia health storytelling project called TruckBeat, one of 15 projects around the country participating in AIR's Localore: #Finding Americainitiative. Before TruckBeat, Jess was an independent public radio journalist based in Minneapolis. She’s also worked as a staff reporter and producer at Minnesota Public Radio in the Twin Cities, and produced audio, video and web stories for a variety of other news outlets, including NPR News, APM, and PBS television stations. She has a Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. She loves making documentaries and telling stories at the intersection of journalism, digital and social media.