Obama grants federal disaster aid to 22 Va. localities hit by Irene

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - President Barack Obama has granted Virginia's request for disaster assistance for 22 cities and counties to cover the costs of damage caused by Hurricane Irene.

Gov. Bob McDonnell said Saturday the declaration enables the Federal Emergency Management Agency's public assistance program to help cover eligible costs of roads, buildings and equipment, removing debris and related emergency services.

The counties of Essex, Isle of Wight, James City, Lancaster, Middlesex, New Kent, Richmond, Southampton, Sussex, Westmoreland and York are eligible as are the cities of Chesapeake, Emporia, Hampton, Hopewell, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg.

FEMA indicated that additional localities may be included after further assessments.

Obama also approved federal hazard-mitigation funds for government projects that help protect homes and businesses against future damage.

The request for federal assistance for individuals or businesses will be made next week, McDonnell's office said. Federal, state and local officials are still evaluating damage to homes and private property.