Process begins for relief funds

In the wake of recent flooding, or at least the threat thereof, which hit the Portsmouth area in recent weeks, about 30 local officials met Friday afternoon with emergency management leaders to start the process of determining if local governments can recoup any of the funds spent on flood defense or cleaning up floodwaters.

Kim Carver is director of the Scioto County Emergency Management Agency. In comments to The Daily Times, Carver said the various local government leaders have until Thursday to submit detailed paperwork documenting funds spent during the recent emergencies. Both she and Laura Adcock, public assistance officer for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency Disaster Recovery Branch, said the county will need to meet certain financial thresholds before becoming eligible for reimbursements. The state will also have to reach a certain financial threshold, in this case $17 million, to be eligible for federal disaster aid. Carver said details of the efforts of local governments submitted to emergency management authorities should be available to the media and the public sometime in the next week.

Adcock noted local municipalities will need to prove expenditures of $293,000 per capita to be eligible for most forms of reimbursement. She added that is why sometimes after disasters it appears the states of West Virginia and Kentucky receive more emergency funding than Ohio; the two neighboring states simply have lower populations.

Adcock said state emergency agencies are under strict deadlines to get paperwork into federal authorities. The recent disaster period has been officially designated as Feb. 14-25. Those dates dictated the deadline mentioned by Carver. While Adcock said Ohio and local officials must act quickly, no one probably should expect a quick response at the federal level. She said the Federal Emergency Management Agency still is stretched thin from disasters around the country in the past year.

Local governments will be able to apply for reimbursement for numerous types of services rendered or required during the recent emergency. For example, Portsmouth will be able to apply for aid in connection with funds spent on raising floodgates around the city for the first time in more than 20 years. In New Boston, officials at least can hope to gain some aid with the cleanup after the flooding in that city. Municipalities can apply for aid with paying labor costs of city employees such as police and firefighters, but only if those employees were working on overtime. No aid will be forthcoming for money spent paying employees working normal shifts, even if those shifts were spent dealing with emergency issues.