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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 23, 1998

     President Clinton today announced that Federal disaster aid has 

been made available to victims of last night's tornadoes in central Florida, and that he will travel to Florida on Wednesday, February 25, to survey the damage. Hillary and I are deeply concerned about the tragic loss of life from these devastating tornadoes. We are also concerned about the safety and welfare of all Florida families who have endured one damaging storm after another this year, the President said.

The President announced this action following an inspection of the tornado-damaged area conducted earlier today by James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Florida Governor Lawton Chiles.

The President said that aid was being made available to tornadostricken families and local governments in Brevard, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia Counties under an extended major disaster declaration issued on January 6, 1998, for the Christmas Day storms.

Vice President Gore, expressing his concern, said, The President and I are absolutely determined to provide the needed resources as quickly as possible to help the victims of this disaster. This is our number one priority for residents facing destroyed homes and businesses.

Assistance can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, minor home repairs, and other serious disaster-related expenses. Lowinterest loans from the Small Business Administration also will be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.

In addition, federal aid was made available today for families and businesses in 11 other Central Florida counties struck by storms earlier this year. The eligible counties are: Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Duval, Hamilton, Hardee, Highlands, Marion, Manatee, and Suwanne.