Board members of a state agency agreed Monday to commit up to $1 million to deal with the intermediate and long-term after effects of last month's tornadoes that struck the state.
The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust board will decide later how the money will be distributed. The intended emphasis is on health or mental health issues.
“We have witnessed unprecedented damage and destruction,” said Casey Killblane, the board chairman. “Our mission is to improve the health of Oklahomans, and we know there will be ongoing needs as the families and communities pick up the pieces and move forward.”
“The effects of this will be going on for years,” said board member Kenneth Rowe.
The money could go to services or studies by nonprofit or state agencies, board members said.
“We're really just going to look for where our funding can do the most good in the intermediate and long term,” said Tracey Strader, executive director of the agency, which works on ways to fight tobacco use and to promote healthy lifestyles, such as better nutrition and exercise. “We just don't have those answers right now.”
Since May 19, several tornadoes have struck the state, including Moore, Oklahoma City, Carney, Bethel Acres, Edmond, Prague, Newcastle and El Reno.
“This is an opportunity for TSET to step forward and make a difference,” said Dr. George Foster, a board member. “There's money available.”
Strader said the agency, if it allocated $1 million for tornado relief, should have about $38.6 million available for expenditures in the coming year.
The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund was created by a voter-approved constitutional amendment in 2000, which specifies that only the earnings from the trust fund may be spent on programs to improve the health and well being of Oklahomans, particularly children and senior adults.
We have witnessed unprecedented damage and destruction. Our mission is to improve the health of Oklahomans, and we know there will be ongoing needs as the families and communities pick up the pieces and move forward.”
Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust board chairman