Joplin Tornado
11:52 am
Tue May 31, 2011

Feds to pay 90 percent of Joplin tornado cleanup

Updated 5:07 p.m. to reflect that the cleanup work begins Wednesday.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon says the federal government has agreed to pay a greater-than-usual share of the cleanup costs from a deadly tornado that struck Joplin.

He says the federal government will cover 90 percent of the expedited debris removal from areas that received extensive damage.

That's the same proportion the federal government is paying for deadly tornadoes that hit Alabama last month.

Typically, the federal government pays 75 percent of cost of responding to disasters, with state and local governments picking up the rest.  Barb Sturner of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says the amount of devastation in Joplin qualifies for a higher amount of coverage.

“There are entire neighborhoods that are essentially reduced to a debris field," Sturner said.  “It’s really nothing more than literally pieces of wood, personal property…you can’t even really tell what kind of structure was there prior to the tornado if you had not been here.”

Nixon has directed the Missouri National Guard to lead the cleanup effort in Joplin. He says the 90 percent federal aid will be a great assistance.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, of Missouri, had asked the federal government to pay the full cost.  Sturner says any such request would have to come from the Governor’s office, but if it does, FEMA would forward the request to the White House.  

Cleanup efforts in Joplin will move ahead Wednesday, when Gov. Jay Nixon says crews will begin hauling away debris.

Government officials say the rubble will be taken to three landfills - two in Kansas and one in Lamar, Mo.

Environmental officials have said the debris must be handled carefully because it could contain asbestos used in the construction of older buildings and other hazardous waste.

The tornado damaged or destroyed more than 8,000 buildings.