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The Massachusetts House and Senate on Thursday cleared $15 million worth of relief funds for the communities hit hardest by this month's deadly tornadoes.
The amount does not come close to estimates of the disaster's price, but lawmakers hope to provide immediate relief to impacted cities and towns.
Western Massachusetts Sen. Michael Knapik says the amount barely covers the initial rescue effort.
"Obviously [it's] to help us with our state agencies that were really there in the first hours of the disaster, and really as some senators will point out, just the beginning of our involvement helping the citizens of this region regain property, but more importantly, regain their lives," he said.
Insurance requests have spiraled to $140 million. So far, 200 businesses and 4,200 homeowners have filed damage claims.
Meanwhile, the Patrick administration is working to get tornado survivors out of shelters as quickly as possible.
Greg Bialecki, the state's secretary of Housing and Economic Development, says his office is working with the city of Springfield, real estate property managers and emergency agencies such as the Red Cross to get the roughly 250 people who are still housed at the MassMutual Center shelter into more permanent housing.
"Realistically just given the number of families and the volume, some of those alternatives that we are able to offer people will not be in Springfield, some may be in a Chicopee or a Holyoke. And for some individuals and families that's a challenge as they don't have a car or transportation," said Bialecki after a breakfast at the Chamber of Commerce in Springfield Wednesday.
Bialecki said that the silver lining to the tornado's damage could be the opportunity to rebuild more energy efficient, green buildings and housing to replace what was damaged.
With reporting from Pippin Ross for WBUR and WFCR-FM's Anne Mostue
This program aired on June 16, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.
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