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Worcester County May Not Qualify For Federal Aid In Wake Of Tornadoes

By Alana Gomez, WBZ-TV
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Tornado damage in Southbridge.

Tornado damage in Southbridge.

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SOUTHBRIDGE (CBS) – Tornado ravaged towns in western Massachusetts are hoping to get federal assistance, but some communities could get left out.

The government requires requests be submitted by county. Most of the hard hit areas are in Hampden County and shouldn’t have a problem. Sturbridge and Southbridge are the only devastated communities in Worcester County, and those two towns alone don’t qualify.

In Governor Deval Patrick’s request to the President, he urged the government to make an exception, writing:

“County borders are little more than geographical/political demarcations of jurisdiction. The Towns of Sturbridge and Southbridge should not be excluded from receiving federal financial assistance merely by being on the wrong side of a county line, a boundary not respected by the tornado’s path.”

WBZ-TV’s Alana Gomez reports.

Patrick’s sentiments are echoed by those Worcester County communities.

“It’s not fair,” said Edgardo Velazquez of Southbridge. “A lot of people got hit here too.”

Velazquez has been homeless ever since his house was deemed unsafe to live in. A giant pine tree went through the middle the home.

Donate: The CBS Boston Cares Massachusetts Tornado Relief Fund

“Any assistance would be great because there’s a lot of tragedy going on,” said Kelly Leveille.

Leveille said she is struggling financially trying to make repairs. Her garage is a pile of debris.

In Southbridge, at least 80 buildings were severely damaged and 35 families are still displaced.

In Governor Patrick’s letter, he also noted that 15% of Southbridge residents live below the poverty level and there is an unemployment rate of 10%. Patrick said if the town doesn’t receive federal assistance, “the affected individuals in these impacted communities cannot effectively recover form this event.”

Throughout the state – 319 homes were destroyed and 600 homes had major damage.

Preliminary damage estimates cost $24 million in Hampden County alone.

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