Director of the Scioto County Emergency Management Agency Kim Carver said this week there is federal disaster relief money headed to Southern Ohio. It’s arrival just may take longer than expected, she added.
“All Scioto County jurisdictions will be eligible for reimbursement for up to 87.5 percent of costs associated with response and recovery to the flooding in February, including flood defense costs in the city of Portsmouth and village of New Boston,” Carver said in comments made when the state was approved for FEMA assistance in mid-April.
A declaration of emergency was signed by President Trump April 19 in response to flooding and landslides that slammed the area Feb.14-25. However, Carver said recently FEMA is using a new service model to deliver funds relating to the February disaster.
“In doing so, they are not staffing up as quickly as possible,” she added, but also said the new delivery model “is not going to mean any less money for anybody.”
According to both Carver and Mark Peterson, external affairs officer for FEMA Region 5, the next step in the overall process seems to be dealing with project worksheets submitted or to be submitted by the various jurisdictions around Scioto County. Each worksheet deals with a specific claim connected to the weather problems which occurred in February. Carver said the Ohio EMA has been talking with most local governments involved. Submitted project worksheets need to be reviewed by the state and federal governments for accuracy and to ensure the submitted project or expenditure is eligible for FEMA funding. Despite saying the overall process may take longer than it might have in the past, Carver said she expects federal “boots to be on the ground,” presumably doing more review work, sooner than later.
Carver also talked about the deadline for submitting project worksheets could be extended into late this year or even next year. She said it undoubtedly will be later this year before anyone can say how much FEMA money is headed toward Southern Ohio. For his part, Peterson said he would not even offer a “guestimate” as to when relief funds will be made available or how much.
Scioto County Commissioners made a local declaration of emergency on Feb. 19 when rivers were rising, and state help was requested for mitigating losses and response to protect lives and property. Gov. John Kasich initially declared Scioto County a disaster area in a Governor’s declaration then made some 17 other river counties eligible for state assistance Feb. 24.
In March, a formal preliminary damage assessment saw local jurisdictions turn in more than $4 million in costs for response and recovery. That figure helped the state meet the $17 million threshold needed for FEMA involvement.
According to Carver and Cassie Ringsdorf, a FEMA spokesperson, the first step in awarding monies following the President’s declaration of emergency was what was dubbed by Ringsdorf as an applicant briefing essentially meant to inform local government officials on how to apply for FEMA funds. About 50 representatives from communities around the county attended that meeting on April 27.
According to information provided by Ringsdorf, the next step in the process is the assignment of a FEMA program delivery manager who will serve as a single point of contact for the customers, that is the various communities, seeking financial assistance. It is unclear if that has happened. Ringsdorf said the delivery manager will set up exploratory phone calls with representatives of the various applicants. Carver did not mention any direct contact between local communities and federal authorities, but as already noted, she said state EMA officials have held discussions with local leaders.
Once initial phone calls have been made, the next big step in the process appears to be what FEMA information calls a recovery scoping meeting. That next round of meetings will include the gathering of any needed documentation and the development of a list of projects and priorities.
“It’s a pretty intense process,” Ringsdorf said.
This past week also saw FEMA release a public notice announcing federal authorities may or may not be involved with restoration projects involving historically or environmentally sensitive locations or buildings. The notice is intended to give the public the opportunity to comment on such projects. Carver described the notice as a formality. She said there are no such projects being undertaken or proposed in Scioto County.
Reach Tom Corrigan at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931