A recent decision handed down by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denying individual assistance to victims of the June 29 storm damage did not affect Jefferson County. According to Barbara Miller, director of the county's Homeland Security and Emergency Management office, Jefferson did not meet the initial required threshold to apply for assistance on and individual basis.
FEMA denied individual assistance statewide, which had government officials calling for a re-evaluation of the situation. Statements from both Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Jay Rockefeller called for FEMA to reconsider their decision. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin also weighed in on the federal decision asking that assistance be granted to West Virginians.
"I am working with the members of our state's Congressional Delegation to urge the President to reconsider FEMA's denial of individual assistance to residents after recent storms," said a statement from Manchin. "I am disappointed in FEMA's decision, but I am determined to continue to fight for the recovery funds that are vital to so many West Virginians. I will continue working tirelessly to make sure our state and our people get the help they need and deserve," Manchin continued.
Tomblin immediately appealed the decision and received support from Rockefeller.
"I absolutely agree with Gov. Tomblin. I strongly encourage FEMA's administrator to reconsider its decision and I support the Governor's appeal. Three-quarters of West Virginians were affected by the storm and so many people are still trying to recover their losses and damages," Rockefeller said.
Miller explained that Jefferson County residents did not seek assistance, primarily due to the fact that most individuals were insured for the damages faced with not enough uninsured losses occurring to meet the federal requirement.
"Under the public assistance declaration, we had claims and are seeking assistance for those claims," Miller said. Included under the heading of public assistance would be the county government, the hospital, schools, fire companies and some nonprofits, Miller explained. Items which could be submitted for reimbursement include physical damages such as the loss of the roof on the County Commission building in downtown Charles Town as well as lost medications due to power outages. Also submitted, Miller said, are costs incurred by the county such as over time to clear and repair any damaged property as well as supplies and other expenses used in those endeavors.
Miller said that the county has an additional 60 days to submit any additional information to be considered for public assistance reimbursement. Once all reports and documents have been submitted, there is no estimated time for the county to receive those funds.
"It depends on how many other claims they need to process or what other disasters they have," Miller said. She added that there have been numerous disasters around the country which all are funneled through the same office.
A previous award of assistance for a 2010 snow storm took nearly a full year to process and distribute funds, she said.
There is no indication when FEMA may or may not consider the statewide appeal for individual assistance.