Mayor says New Year's Eve tornado victims still suffering, less noticed
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 20, 2011 - St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay sought to remind the public today of another tornado that also inflicted damage in St. Louis but attracted less attention -- or government assistance.
The mayor held a news conference this afternoon to outline aid, notably for home repairs, available to victims of the New Year's Eve tornadoes that struck some neighborhoods in north St. Louis as well as in Sunset Hills in St. Louis County.
According to the National Weather Service, 12 tornadoes struck various parts of eastern Missouri that day.
The mayor's office concurs in its release that "the New Year's Eve tornado was certainly not the worst tornado our state has seen in the past year -- but its damage has created a hardship for residents. Mayor Slay is committed to helping victims of that tornado and will announce important home repair funding that will be made available to qualified residents."
In his annoucement, Slay said that he is planning a $1 million package for home repairs to help rebuild neighborhoods damaged by the Dec. 31 tornado.
"The number of homes damaged was not enough to attract federal disaster relief," Slay said, "So, we have to do this ourselves."
About 150 homes were damaged, with 90 of them owner-occupied. Only owner-occupied houses will be eligible for the aid.
Slay plans to ask the city's Board of Estimate and Apportionment, the chief fiscal body, "to allocate $500,000 from the Major Initiatives Fund in the federal Community Development Block Grant. About $4 million in the fund is for projects that either are not ready to be built, or don't need the money immediately."
Gov. Jay Nixon, said the mayor, "has agreed to match that from disaster relief funds available through the Missouri Department of Economic Development."
The affected neighborhoods includes Lewis Place, which Slay's staff notes "is on the National Register for Historic Places because of its architecture and its history. Between 1910 and 1945, Lewis Place barred African-Americans from certain streets with the use of restrictive covenants. A group of determined African-Americans fought the covenants and eventually won a landmark legal case."
According to the mayor's office, the aid will be available to homeowners who make no more than 80 percent of the median income and are up to date on their property taxes.
"Because of limits on funding and federal rules, the priority will be repairs that have yet to be made, or were only partially completed. There will be a limit of $30,000 per home, except under extraordinary circumstances, " the mayor's office said. "The disaster relief fund will be administered by the City's Community Development Administration with assistance from the Building Division and Department of Human Services."