Two disaster recovery funds formed in response to last May’s devastating Oklahoma tornadoes have spent $9.4 million to date assisting victims, Gov. Mary Fallin and United Way of Central Oklahoma officials announced Wednesday.
About $20.2 million in donations and pledges from around the world poured into two major relief funds following last May’s storms, said David Thompson, chairman of the board of United Way of Central Oklahoma.
A little over half of that money remains and officials plan to spend it assisting victims within the next year, said Debby Hampton, president and chief executive officer of United Way of Central Oklahoma.
“We still know that there are long-term needs out there and there are individuals who have not asked for help,” Hampton said, urging survivors who still need help to call 211 so they can be directed to the right place for assistance.
Committed to financial transparency and accountability, the governor and United Way officials held a news conference Wednesday to discuss how they have been spending the $15.6 million in donations and pledges that came into the United Way of Central Oklahoma May Tornadoes Relief fund and the $4.6 million taken in by the governor’s OKStrong Fund.
“The magnitude and size of the storms were shocking,” Gov. Fallin said, noting that the storms resulting in 49 deaths, the destruction of nearly 1,300 homes and more than $1 billion in economic loss.”
“Many families lost everything,” she said.
Fallin said Oklahoma is coming back strong with the help of the two relief funds that have paid for needed items and services ranging from “mental health counseling, to rebuilding homes, to assisting with legal work.”
“We showed the nation we are resilient,” Fallin said. “We showed the nation that we’re tough and we’re caring and also very compassionate.”
Thompson said United Way agencies have performed admirably throughout the ordeal.
“It goes without saying that United Way agencies were on the front lines, literally minutes after the first storm and were there on the ground through all of the storms through the 31st of May,” Thompson said. “They’re there today and they will continue to be there to participate in the disaster recovery efforts and meet those needs of the storm survivors.”
United Way officials presented a breakout of the $9.4 million spent to date, which shows:
•$1.4 million was spent on victims’ immediate needs, including such things as clothing, food, appliances, furniture, housing assistance, transportation assistance and debris removal.
•$3.6 million went for health and mental health expenses, including services such as counseling, support for first responders and individual and group therapy sessions.
•$610,000 has gone to pay for legal and financial services for victims, including help with Federal Emergency Management Agency appeals, assistance in securing replacements for lost identification and ownership documents, and assistance in settling insurance claims.
•$3 million has been used for repairs and rebuilding efforts.
•$800,000 has been spent for other things such as assisting schools in replacing lost supplies, purchasing protective helmets for Moore students and supporting distribution sites that handed out disaster relief items to victims.