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Patrick seeks federal funding for damage from storms

LOOKING FOR SOME HELP Deval Patrick is seeking the declaration for Hampden and Worcester counties, which suffered most from the storm. LOOKING FOR SOME HELP
Deval Patrick is seeking the declaration for Hampden and Worcester counties, which suffered most from the storm.
By John M. Guilfoil
Globe Staff / June 12, 2011

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Governor Deval Patrick filed a request yesterday with the federal government to declare a “major disaster’’ for parts of the state following the deadly tornadoes that ripped through Western and Central Massachusetts on June 1.

In a letter to President Obama, the governor said that 319 homes were destroyed and another 600 damaged. Patrick said Hampden County alone had more than $24 million worth of damage.

If the federal government makes the declaration, it would open the door to federal funding for those affected by the weather.

“There would be a menu of programs available, from grants from FEMA, to short-term support dealing with everything from mental health issues, to temporary housing, to just trying to assist people in getting up and running again,’’ said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

The funding would provide assistance in two ways. Public assistance aid would reimburse local communities, charities, and state agencies the costs incurred from cleaning debris, repairing buildings, and responding to the emergency.

The declaration would also provide individual assistance to residents and business owners to help them rebuild and recover from the damage.

Patrick is seeking the declaration for Hampden and Worcester counties, which suffered most from the storms.

But there are no guarantees.

The government requires states to submit whole counties for consideration, Judge said. While a strong case can be made for Hampden County, only two communities in Worcester County suffered extensive damage. State officials are hoping the federal government will consider the level of the destruction in Southbridge and Sturbridge and make the declaration for the county.

“There’s enough damage there, that if we spread it out over many, many more communities, we probably would have a compelling case for qualifying a whole county,’’ Judge said.

The violent line of storms that passed through the state at the beginning of the month spawned three tornadoes, including an EF-3 with winds of 160 miles per hour that touched down in Westfield, plowing a line nearly 40 miles east to the town of Charlton.

Three people died in the storms and at least 300 were injured, Patrick said.