CHATTANOOGA (AP) - The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency knows about a state audit that shows public disaster recovery money is getting paid slowly but a spokesman says the three public assistance employees are working as fast as they can.

The performance audit by the Tennessee Comptroller's Office said TEMA takes an average of 3 months, sometimes longer, to repay local costs for cleanup and repair of public property after a disaster.

TEMA spokesman Jeremy Heidt told the Chattanooga Times Free Press the agency knows there's a hardship on local communities.

The audit said that in fiscal 2011, TEMA handed out about $60 million in disaster relief and homeland security grants.

He said legislators last year authorized new staff but the agency has just begun the hiring process. Some other states are helping.

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