By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joplin will receive $113 million from a $125 million state grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for disaster recovery.
The grant is among more than a half-billion dollars the federal agency allocated to nine states for long-term recovery from a number of storms and wildfires that occurred in 2011.
City Manager Mark Rohr said the grant was a surprise to city officials, who earlier had applied for $1.72 billion from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program for tornado recovery and received $45.2 million.
Rohr said city officials thought the $45 million award, made in January 2012, was the result of the application and did not know that more money would be on the way.
“We’re very pleased and grateful for the assistance we’ve gotten, and we intend to use the money wisely to help the city recover in the best way possible,” Rohr said.
He said the city’s original grant request was based on figures awarded for past disasters elsewhere such as Midwest flooding, the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina.
Rohr said he thought the additional money came Wednesday as a result of HUD’s review of the unmet needs that were listed in the earlier application and perhaps because of lobbying by other officials for money to help disaster-stricken cities.
HUD statements said the award came from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act that President Barack Obama signed Jan. 29 that designates $16 billion for U.S. disaster recovery.
The federal agency has made $5.4 billion of that available to five states and the city of New York for Hurricane Sandy damage response.
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 earlier this month that the Joplin School District will receive about $3 million in federal funding to help rebuild Franklin Technology Center.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s office issued a statement saying that the award was the result of legislation Blunt sponsored that made the $45 million available to Joplin. He also has sought continued aid that is earmarked for the areas in most need, his staff said. Blunt, R-Mo., met at City Hall with Joplin and Duquesne officials within weeks after the May 2011 tornado to ask them what would be needed for recovery.
“When a disaster exceeds the ability of communities and states, the federal government has a responsibility to help people rebuild,” Blunt said in the statement. “I’m pleased these funds will continue to help local leaders, businesses and families in Missouri recover and reinvest for the future.”
HUD said more funding to other states and cities affected by disasters in 2011 through 2013 will be announced later.
Rohr said the city does not have uses identified for the money at this time. He said the block grant funds are designated for housing, infrastructure and business projects.
“We think we need to take a slow, studied and measured response to this announcement and consider all the needs advanced, and some that haven’t even been voiced, and submit a plan to council for public discussion,” Rohr said.
“It’s going to take some time to research the different ideas and potential projects, and put them together in a coherent manner for public discussion.”
Once projects have been identified for the use of the funds, the city will submit a proposed action plan to HUD for approval of the spending.
The procedure will take time and research, Rohr said.
“This is an opportunity that comes along once in the history of the city, and we want to make sure we don’t rush along and make decisions that aren’t in the best interests of our citizens,” he said.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.
MISSOURI IS TO RECEIVE the largest HUD award announced Wednesday at $125 million, which includes Joplin’s $113 million.
OTHER FUNDING announced for assistance after hurricane, tornado and flood damage, and wildfires:
ALABAMA: $120 million.
LOUISIANA: $107 million.
PENNSYLVANIA: $47 million.
NORTH DAKOTA: $41.6 million.
MASSACHUSETTS: $29 million.
TENNESSEE: $21 million.
VERMONT: $18 million.
TEXAS: $5 million.