Okla. town hit by tornado complained feds were slowing work on shelters

An Oklahoma town devastated by a tornado on Monday had complained about changing federal regulations that prevented it from dispersing money for tornado shelters.

The city of Moore, Okla., in February said that a city proposal to give rebates to homeowners to build natural-disaster-safe rooms was suffering delays from federal and state regulators.

Redesigned rules were preventing the approval of the county's hazard mitigation plan, holding up the rebate program.

"There were changes to the Federal requirements for this plan that occurred while our contractor was writing the document; he has had to rewrite it," the city said in a statement, pointing to changes at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 

“We've found that the FEMA requirements and their interpretations seem to be a constantly moving target, more so with the new wrinkles.”

The city said it intended to resubmit the strategy in March. A FEMA official did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The city wanted $2 million in federal money to help about 800 homeowners pay for the safe rooms. The rebates would cover up to $2,500 or 75 percent of the cost of installing the shelters.

In the February statement, the city also bemoaned the drying up of federal grant money for disaster initiatives.

“Oklahoma has had few of these declarations in the past couple of years, so there is not a lot of grant money available,” the city added.

The complaint was first reported by the Guardian.

On Monday, a category four tornado ripped through Moore and other cities in the state, killing at least 24 people.

President Obama declared a major disaster in Oklahoma and ordered federal aid to help the recovery. That aid includes low-cost loans and grants for temporary housing and home repairs.