The activation of a disaster relief program for Perry County farmers and small businesses impacted by this week’s deadly tornado has been announced by Missouri State Treasurer Eric Schmitt (R).

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens speaks to Perryville residents on March 1, 2017, after a deadly tornado (photo courtesy of Governor Greitens’ Facebook page]

The tornado killed one person and injured ten others. The “St. Louis Post-Dispatch” reports its path was 13 to 15 miles long.

Schmitt says the Harmed-area Emergency Loan Priority system, or HELP, authorizes 24-hour approval of low-interest loans for farming operations and other businesses damaged by the storm.

“And we wanted to make sure we were as active as possible, as early as possible, making people aware in the affected area of the Harmed-area Emergency Loan Priority system, or HELP initiative,” says Schmitt.

HELP is administered through the Missouri Linked Deposit Program, which Schmitt’s website says is well-funded, with a total of $720 million available.

Schmitt says that by streamlining the approval process, this program will help affected farmers and small businesses return their operations to fully functional status as quickly as possible.

The National Weather Service office in Paducah says their preliminary rating is that the tornado was an EF-3 or greater. The NWS survey team will continue their work in Perry County on Thursday morning.

Schmitt is encouraging every farmer impacted by the storm to consider participating in the disaster relief program.

“You know agriculture is the number one industry in the state and anything that we can do to help the folks affected get back on their feet as quickly as possible is something that’s very important to me and my entire team,” Schmitt says.

Schmitt tells Missourinet people’s livelihoods are at stake.

Governor Eric Greitens (R) flew to Perryville on Wednesday to thank first responders and volunteers. He posted about the visit on Facebook.

“You can look at a situation like this and see people who suffered, people who have lost everything. And the damage from this tornado was real and serious. We can’t ignore that, and we will do what is in our power to help these communities rebuild.”

Greitens says he saw a “resilient community” of neighbors helping each other and comforting one another.

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D) also released a statement about the deadly tornado, pledging to stand “shoulder-to-shoulder with Perryville.”

“It’s hard to imagine what a frightening night the folks in this region have suffered,” says McCaskill. “I’m praying for each and every person affected. And as we get our first real look at the damage and assess the daunting task ahead, I know that Missourians are all too familiar with natural disasters, and we’ve never failed to show our resilience. I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Perryville and will support these rebuilding efforts any way I can.”