Scioto and surrounding counties eligible for FEMA relief

By Tom Corrigan -

On Monday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced local governments, state agencies and certain private, non-profit organizations in 20 southern Ohio counties impacted by severe weather in February are now eligible for federal funds to help pay for damage repair and extra costs incurred as a result of severe storms, flooding and landslides.

Following a request from DeWine for a federal disaster declaration, President Donald Trump made the federal funds available.

Including Scioto County, counties named in the disaster declaration are Adams, Athens, Brown, Gallia, Guernsey, Hocking, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Pike, Ross, Vinton and Washington.

“I’m pleased that President Trump approved this federal funding,” DeWine said. “The assistance will be critical in helping these 20 counties fix infrastructure that was damaged in the February storms.”

Director of the Scioto County Emergency Management Agency, Kim Carver also expressed pleasure with the declaration, saying she was happy to see Appalachian counties with low tax bases and high unemployment again would be eligible for federal assistance with making repairs to infrastructure, especially roads, damaged by Mother Nature.

She added without the help, some jurisdictions might be forced to reduce or eliminate day-to-day activities in order to pay for emergency repairs.

Carver noted this is, of course, the second year in a row Scioto County and numerous surrounding jurisdictions had been declared disaster areas by the federal government. As was the case prior to last year’s disaster declaration, local governments had to show a certain amount of damage had been done before they could be declared eligible for federal assistance.

In the case of Scioto County, Carver said local officials asserted heavy rains and flooding in February did over $4 million in damage to local infrastructure, mostly roads. She talked about how this year’s heavy rains caused some massive landslides which did not occur in 2018.

“There were some really big-ticket repair costs connected with this year’s rains,” Carver said.

She added hopefully the new system has been streamlined and the process will go more smoothly this year. Carver said this is the 14th time Scioto County has been eligible for FEMA money during her 30 years with the county EMA.

Heavy rains and severe storms that occurred last year in February led to an emergency proclamation and a Presidential Disaster Declaration in 2018 for 20 counties, 14 of which are included in this year’s declaration.

As was the case in 2018, 2019 funding will be provided through FEMA’s Public Assistance Program, which repays local governments for eligible storm-related response and recovery efforts, including debris removal, emergency protective measures and the repair, replacement, or restoration of damaged infrastructure.

DeWine declared a state of emergency for the 20 counties impacted by the February 5-13 storms on March 11. Joint preliminary damage assessments conducted by local, state, and federal emergency management officials during the second week of March documented damages to critical infrastructure, such as county roads, bridges, culverts and public buildings totaling $41.4 million.

According to Carver, as was the case last year, the next step is for representatives of local eligible jurisdictions to meet with FEMA representatives and discuss formal application procedures, go over what projects are eligible and so on. Ultimately, the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (Ohio EMA) will disburse the federal funds for eligible projects and will process all required documentation.

The recent declaration authorization also makes statewide funding available through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Representatives from Ohio EMA will meet with local officials to further explain the application process.

In February of this year, even as rains which led to the latest disaster declaration were falling, Carver was somewhat critical of FEMA and their assistance dispersal process. She said FEMA last year unveiled what they called a new assistance delivery system which was advertised as providing enhanced customer service.

“The roll out of that system last year did not go as planned, I think,” Carver said this week.

In February, she talked about local jurisdictions still not having received monies promised after the 2018 disaster declaration. Speaking more recently, Carver said outcries from several sources, including DeWine and the Scioto County Commissioners, seemed to have spurred FEMA into action. According to Carver only two or three local jurisdictions still have not received monies previously promised. She stated in one case the jurisdiction in question, namely the Village of New Boston, has not completed work on repairs from flooding that hit that area hard last year.

According to Carver, New Boston still needs to clean out what she called “twin tubes” which run under US 52. Carver did add it is her belief the village is about to go out for bids to have that work done.

New Boston officials were not readily available for comment.

By Tom Corrigan