Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

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April 24, 2014

Oklahoma officials account for $9.4M in disaster spending

OKLAHOMA CITY — Nearly a year after deadly tornadoes hit central Oklahoma, officials announced that they have spent close to $9.4 million in private donations on relief efforts.

In all, the United Way of Central Oklahoma May Tornadoes Relief Fund and Gov. Mary Fallin’s OKStrong fund has accumulated nearly $20.2 million in donations — including the millions raised during two country music benefit concerts. Donations ranged in size from as small as $5 to as much as $2 million from people across the world, said Debby Hampton, president and CEO of United Way of Central Oklahoma, the organization that is charged with disbursing both fund’s donations.

Fallin, whose OKStrong fund raised $4.6 million of that total to assist with long-term needs, said the storms killed 49 Oklahomans, destroyed nearly 1,300 homes and resulted in 36,000 insurance claims being filed by homeowners or businesses. In all the storms, which occurred from May 19 through May 31, cost $1 billion in economic losses, she said.

Hampton said of the money already spent $3.6 million has gone to health and mental health services for survivors, $3 million to repairs and rebuilding efforts, $1.4 million to immediate needs like clothing, food, appliances and housing assistance, $800,000 to goods and other services like replacing lost school curriculum and $610,000 to legal and financial services.

Meanwhile, a community needs assessment survey is under way in affected communities to help pinpoint the exact long-term needs.

“The survey is going to be very helpful for non-profits as well as the disbursement committee to identify those recovery efforts that will be requiring long-term financial assistance,” said David Thompson, United Way board chairman.

Thompson said larger requests for aid are starting as rebuilding efforts begin in earnest.

Also more requests are anticipated as people begin to seek mental health services as the anniversary of the disaster approaches.

By this time next year, officials anticipate every dime donated will have been spent.

“We still know there are long term needs out there. There are individuals who have not asked for help, we really need you to get the word out,” Hampton said, adding that people are encouraged to call 211 to be connected with the appropriate resources.

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