USDA ASSISTS AMERICAN SAMOANS FOLLOWING THE TSUNAMI
WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today highlighted USDA's continuing efforts to provide resources and assistance to the recovery operations on American Samoa after the recent tsunami.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who have been impacted by this tsunami," said Vilsack. "We will continue to work with our partners at the Federal, State and local level to identify and expedite delivery of all resources we can offer to those who are in need."
USDA Forest Service personnel have completed surveys of fire stations for structural integrity and repair needs. Also, the USDA Service Center, which houses USDA's Rural Development, Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service offices, is not open due to severe damage. Personnel from these agencies have notified citizens of American Samoa through radio, newspapers and other means about how to reach these USDA offices. USDA personnel also are assisting the Federal Emergency Management Agency with developing a demobilization plan.
To date, USDA has mobilized the following resources for those affected by the disaster:
Food Assistance: USDA'S Food and Nutrition Service approved reimbursements so the American Samoan Department of Education could provide 9,000 meals per day at emergency feeding locations. Emergency meals potentially could continue for the next two months in the hardest hit villages and outlying areas. Additionally, USDA provided inventories of available USDA commodities located in Hawaii, California and the multi-food warehouses in case the food is needed. USDA also continues providing technical assistance to American Samoa as it assesses its disaster food assistance needs.
Housing Assistance: In order to support those affected by the tsunami, USDA Rural Development has placed a moratorium of six months for about 500 unsecured loans made though the Housing Repair and Rehabilitation Loan Program (Section 504). The total value of the home repair and home ownership loans in American Samoa is about $1.25 million. For more information contact the Centralized Servicing Center at (800) 414-1226.
Community Assistance: USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service made available $500,000 through the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program. These funds will provide emergency assistance to protect life and property through recovery measures such as debris removal from streams and stabilizing stream banks.
Farmer and Rancher Assistance: USDA's Farm Service Agency continues to gather limited information on crops. USDA has several disaster programs for qualified farm operators, including low-interest emergency loans, the Emergency Conservation Program and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.
Food Safety: USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service advises consumers in the affected area to call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 24 hours a day at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854); for the hearing-impaired (TTY) 1-800-256-7072 for information about keeping food safe during floods and power outages.
Additional information and updates about USDA's American Samoa tsunami relief efforts are posted on the Web site at www.usda.gov/besafe .
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