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Rell Appeals FEMA's Denial of Aid

Gov. M. Jodi Rell has appealed the Federal Emergency Management Agency's decision to deny disaster aid to Fairfield County home and business owners whose properties were damaged by the June 24 tornado.

FEMA told the state last week that it did not feel the damage was substantial enough that the towns and individuals could not afford the repairs themselves. Rell's appeal was announced in a press release Friday.

The governor reportedly also gave FEMA new information Friday that was not available by Aug. 20, when the state had to file its request.

"FEMA's own guidelines -- a provision called the 'localized impact exception' -- allow the agency to provide exactly the kind of relief residents need. Because Connecticut does not have county governments, it has only two tax bases -- local and state -- rather than three (state, county and local) like most states," said Rell, pointing out that FEMA has made exceptions for "independent cities" that did not receive help from counties.

"We believe that every city in Connecticut -- including Bridgeport -- is, in effect, an 'independent city' and deserves the same consideration. ... The bottom-line issue here is simply one of fairness. The people, business owners and local governments affected by this tornado do not have the resources they need to recover. The tornado touched down in a small geographical area, in a low-income area of a low-income city. This aid is needed."

FEMA and state officials had already confirmed that there was significant loss as a result of the storm. FEMA has said part of the reason some of aid was rejected was that some of the properties were not in use, which Bridgeport officials have denied.

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