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State disaster relief funds more accessible, with higher payouts under bill headed to governor

Damage from a tornado in Sullivan County, Indiana after a 2023 storm.
Devan Ridgway
/
WTIU
A year of dangerous weather in 2023 prompted the Indiana Department of Homeland Security to evaluate its disaster relief program.

Legislation headed to the governor aims to make Indiana’s disaster relief program easier to access, while providing more money for those in need.

Rep. Michelle Davis (R-Whiteland) said the state Department of Homeland Security evaluated its disaster relief program after a year of particularly dangerous weather in 2023.

She said one change prompted by that evaluation was the need for greater flexibility.

“Currently, Indiana’s individual assistance program can only be used when the United States Small Business Administration declares a disaster for an impacted community,” Davis said. “Removing this requirement gives Indiana autonomy over its own program to assist disaster survivors.”

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SB 190 also increases the amount individuals can get from $10,000 to $25,000.

Other provisions in the legislation allow counties to use relief dollars for disaster mitigation efforts. In turn, counties that implement such efforts can get access to more funding after a disaster.

State officials said the amount of money currently in the fund should be enough for the expansions in the bill. Indiana’s disaster relief program is funded through sales of fireworks.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.