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Irene Assistance At $6 Million In Western Mass.

By Paul Tuthill

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-993729.mp3

Westfield,MA – The federal government says it has paid out more than 6 million dollars , so far, to people in western Massachusetts who suffered damage from Tropical Storm Irene last summer. A non profit dedicated to preserving local agriculture is offering help to farmers impacted by Irene. WAMC"s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports..

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized assistance to more than 670 people in Berkshire and Franklin counties whose homes or businesses were damaged by the storm in late August.. The deadline for requesting federal disaster assistance passed on November 2nd , but FEMA is still processing a backlog of applications and considering appeals, according to an agency spokesman, Alberto Pillot.
The U.S. Small Business Adminstration has approved almost 3 million dollars in low interest loans, while FEMA has awarded three million dollars in grants for losses not covered by insurance.
The help was made possible after President Obama issued disaster declarations in the aftermath of Irene. Total damage is likely to exceed one point five billion dollars.
Pillot, the FEMA spokesman, says the recovery effort will continue as faith based and community organizations work together in what are called Long Term Recovery Groups.
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources estimates that Irene caused more than five million dollars in damage to western Massachusetts farmland. The non-profit, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture has established an emergency loan fund . CISA executive director Philip Korman says it will provide up to ten thousand dollars to a farmer who suffered losses because of natural disasters.
Korman says the fund began with a 50 thousand dollar matching grant from an anonymous donor and 15 thousand dollars from Whole Foods Market. More money has been raised and a loan committee is now in place..
The US Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service has approved nearly 2 point 8 million dollars to help restore rivers and streams damaged by Irene. The money will cover 75 percent of the costs of 35 projects in 14 towns in western Massachusetts.