Federal disaster aid announced for Arkansas counties hit by June 25 storm

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks about student loan debt forgiveness, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Oct. 4, 2023, in Washington. Biden has a lot of unfinished business from his first term that he intends to continue if reelected. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

President Joe Biden announced that he ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts for the areas most severely affected by the spate of storms that ripped through Arkansas five months ago.

Specifically, the assistance is designated for Faulkner, Lonoke, Arkansas and Poinsett counties, which suffered structural and other damage during June 25 storm, according to a news release from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

As a result of the major disaster declaration, federal funding is available to state, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a "cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities" damaged by the storms, FEMA officials said.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that she requested the disaster declaration on Aug. 23.

"Central Arkansas and the Delta are still picking up the pieces left by June's severe storms," she stated in a news release. "My administration determined that these storms caused enough damage to qualify our state for federal disaster assistance, and I'm thankful that the federal government agrees. These funds will help state and local officials continue the rebuilding process and speed us to full recovery."

Local and state restoration and cleanup efforts began in the wake of the storms, which brought high-velocity winds to the state, according to the National Weather Service's North Little Rock office. One tree was blown into a home in Carlisle, killing two people and injuring another.

More than 62,000 Entergy Arkansas customers lost power during the peak of the June 25 storm, company spokeswoman Kacee Kirschvink said. It took four days before power was restored to everyone, according to Entergy.

The ravaging winds damaged or destroyed 561 utility poles, 205 transformers and 1,032 spans of wire, Kirschvink said.

On June 26, after the storms had finished passing through the state, Sanders declared a state of emergency.

Roland W. Jackson has been named federal coordinating officer for recovery operations in the affected areas, according to the White House.

Jackson was tapped for the same role in August 2020 after the state suffered damage from Hurricane Laura.

It was also announced by FEMA on Tuesday that federal funding is available for hazard mitigation measures across the state.

Additional designations may be announced at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of any additional damage assessment, FEMA officials said.

Residents and business owners who suffered losses in the designated areas may begin applying for assistance by registering online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling (800) 621-3362 or (800) 462-7585.