A tornado ripped through cash-strapped Jefferson County yesterday, destroying 1,000 homes and killing at least 14 people, Bloomberg reports.The disaster could seriously compound financial woes in the county, which is already on the verge of the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.
With the Jefferson County coffers set to run dry by July, local officials are hoping they won’t have to pay for much for much of the damage. President Obama’s emergency declaration means the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse local governments for some of their disaster expenses.
The county – home to Birmingham – has been fighting bankruptcy since 2008, when interest rates shot up on its $3.2 billion sewer debt. The fiscal crisis worsened when the state Supreme Court struck down a wage and business-licence tax last month, depriving the county of a critical source of revenue. To make up for the loss, the county may have to cut nearly half of its workforce.
Jefferson officials requested U.S. aid today but a county commissioner told Bloomberg he was not sure how much federal assistance would be available.