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Obama Declares Disaster Relief for 5 More Kentucky Counties

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has been notified by President Barack Obama that five more counties are eligible for federal disaster relief bringing the total count to 21 counties.

Residents from Grayson, Larue, Ohio, Russell and Trimble counties are the latest to be granted federal relief following the March 2 storms that damaged several regions.

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Disaster Recovery Center Opening in Southern Indiana

State and federal agencies will open a disaster recovery center in southern Indiana tomorrow morning to get aid to people affected by this month’s tornadoes and other storms.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security says the center will open at 8am tomorrow at the Ivy Tech campus off Interstate-65.

It will remain open from 8am to 8pm until further notice.

Officials say the staff of the recovery center can answer questions about registering for disaster assistance and hazard mitigation, disaster loan applications and other help.

President Barack Obama has declared a federal disaster area in Clark, Jefferson, Ripley, Scott, Warrick and Washington counties.

Disaster centers are up and running in hard-hit areas of eastern and northern Kentucky.

(Information for this story came from the Associated Press)

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Local News

FEMA to Assess Indiana’s Public Storm Damage This Week

Gov. Mitch Daniels may have the chance to request another disaster declaration after Indiana officials assess damage to public infrastructure caused by this month’s devastating storms.

Last week, teams of federal, state and local officials found Indiana residents in six counties were eligible for federal relief and he requested a disaster, which was granted by President Obama.

Beginning Tuesday, four counties are being reviewed for public damage, said Greg Hughes, a Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Ron Paul: No Federal Relief for Tornado Victims

Standing by his libertarian principles, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul reiterated his opposition to the Federal Emergency Management Agency when he said victims of the deadly tornadoes that hit Kentucky should not receive federal aid.

Last week, a series of storms across the South and Midwest caused injury, property damage and killed dozens, including small towns in Kentucky and southern Indiana.

The Texas congressman said the role of the federal government is to restore order and provide shelter through the National Guard, but that people affected by the storms should buy insurance instead.

“The people who live in tornado alley, just as I live in hurricane alley, they should have insurance,” he said.

Rather than federal funds, Paul argues there is plenty of generous and compassionate Americans who are willing to give after a disaster hits.

Ironically, Congressman Paul’s son, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has also been a libertarian voice in Congress, wrote a letter to President Obama on Monday morning urging him to support a request for a major disaster declaration for Kentucky that would result in federal funds being released.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Paul Derides Democrats Over FEMA Funding

With a partisan fight over a short-term federal spending bill escalating, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is criticizing Senate Democrats over federal disaster funding and blaming them for another potential government shutdown.

Democrats and Republicans disagree over how to fund the Federal Emergency Management Agency and whether it should include cuts to other programs.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nv., will hold a vote Monday night on legislation that mirrors an identical bill passed by the Republican-control House expect without the spending cuts.

But Paul says the only way to handle the increased expenses and deal with the deficit is to make offsets in other areas to avoid greater debt.

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democrats are threatening to shut down government because they insist that disaster funds be borrowed, not offset,” Paul said in a statement. “In other words, the Democrats are insisting we must increase our national debt by borrowing new funds or they will shut down the government … Only in the bizarre world that is Washington, could anyone insist that we borrow more money rather than do the responsible thing and find budgetary offsets for new spending.”

UPDATE: According to Politico, Senate leaders have come to an agreement and will vote to keep the government running through November 18.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Paul Rips Senate for Rejecting Disaster Relief Amendment

In a statement to the press, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., denounced colleagues who voted against his amendment to offset federal funding  disaster relief through cuts to foreign aid.

On Thursday, Democratic leaders granted Paul a debate on the measure in exchange for cooperation in allowing the bill to go forward ahead of schedule. The legislation sought to pay for Federal Emergency Management Agency funds by cutting unspent State Department money for fiscal year 2011.

The Senate rejected the proposal by an overwhelming 78 to 20 vote, which Paul says is another example of reckless government spending.

“Increasing our national debt at a time when our country is in financial dire straits is irresponsible and a dereliction of our responsibility to the American people,” Paul said in a news release. “By cutting from the coffers that fund overseas welfare and nation-building and injecting that funding into disaster assistance for Americans, we are able to continue disaster assistance commitments to communities without borrowing on the backs of our children and grandchildren.”

Instead, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a $7 billion bill to replenish federal disaster aid, which sets up another battle with the GOP-controlled House over spending priorities.

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Here and Now

FEMA Money Stretched Thin, Prioritizing Infrastructure Vital in Natural Disaster Preparation: Today on Here and Now

1:06pm: FEMA is running out of cash. The agency has suspended cash payments to tornado ravaged areas like Birmingham and Joplin… so it can spend money on Hurricane Irene relief. But there’s going to have to be more money and that means the Obama administration will need to go to Congress. We’ll get an update.

1:12pm Hurricane Irene wasn’t as bad as predicted, but today is the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. How prepared are we for disasters? We’ll ask Cornell University engineering professor Thomas O’Rourke, who is an expert on the effects of natural disasters on infrastructure. O’Rourke says megadisasters are the “new normal” and not enough critical thinking is taking place ahead of time to decide what top infrastructure priorities are before what he calls “low probability high consequence events” like big storms.

1:20pm And here’s an unintended consequence to a human-made disaster: Archaeologists traveling with BP workers working to clear the oil from beaches along the Gulf Coast have discovered 60 new archaeological sites in Louisiana alone, and artifacts from these sites are shedding new light on the complexity of Native American civilizations that lived along the Gulf as far back as 15,000 years ago.

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Local News

FEMA Opens Disaster Center in Louisville

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has opened a temporary office in Louisville.

FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Center will help residents apply for federal grants or loans to repair or replace property that was damaged in recent storms and floods.

Louisville Metro Government did not qualify for federal aid for disaster relief, but home and business owners may apply.

The center is at 401 south 5th Street and will be open Monday through Friday until June 7th. Another center has opened in Hardin County.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Daniels Issues Disaster Declaration For 34 Indiana Counties

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has declared a disaster emergency for 34 counties hard-hit by recent severe weather and flooding.

The state Department of Homeland Security’s Arvin Copeland says the declaration is a step toward a possible request for federal aid for the counties, many of which were affected by Ohio River flooding.

“We will go out next week and we will quantify and qualify all the damage we believe is out there to find out whether or not we officially meet that threshold to be eligible for federal assistance. That’s the process at this point.”

Copeland says homes, businesses and public property in the 34 counties appear to have sustained the most damage from severe weather that began April 18. He says more counties could be added to the declaration as additional damage is identified.

Copeland says property owners should document any weather related damage and infrastructure damage should be reported to local officials.

The counties in the declaration are: Benton, Clark, Clay, Crawford, Daviess, Dearborn, DuBois, Floyd, Franklin, Gibson, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Jennings, Knox, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Ohio, Orange, Parke, Perry, Pike, Posey, Putnam, Ripley, Scott, Spencer, Starke, Sullivan, Switzerland, Vanderburgh, Warrick and Washington.

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Local News

MetroSafe Participates in FEMA Earthquake Drill

The Federal Emergency Management Agency conducted an earthquake drill in western Kentucky today.

FEMA is testing how well various federal, state, city and private agencies can respond to a devastating quake on the New Madrid Fault, which is underneath parts of Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.

Louisville MetroSafe spokesperson Lee Cravins says his agency was called this morning asked to prepare to send crews to the simulated disaster area.

“Since we’ve got so many special teams as well as resources, we’ve been requested to assist in western Kentucky. From the emergency operations center we manage receiving the request and then sending the units that are requested,” he says.

Cravins says everything went smoothly. There have been no major problems with radios or communications and first responders were mobilized quickly. The drill continues into tomorrow. Cravins says MetroSafe could be asked to respond to any number of simulated catastrophes, and crews have been thinking more about a potential quake since the disaster in Japan.

“It’s something that always sits on our mind. As close as we are to the New Madrid fault line, as well as others, and anything could happen at any time. We try to prepare for it as much as possible,” he says.

First responders in Lexington also participated in the drill.