President approves McDonnell's request for federal disaster relief

President Barack Obama grants aid for 28 Virginia counties and cities following Hurricane Sandy


Mike Ferreira (cq), with New Horizon Security, closes the road to the Jamestown Ferry as Hurricane Sandy heads torward the eastern coast Monday, October 29, 2012.

Alexa Welch Edlund | Courtesy Richmond Times-Dispatch

President Barack Obama this week approved Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s request for federal disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Administration to reimburse 28 counties and cities in Virginia following the damaging effects of Hurricane Sandy.

“I thank President Obama for his prompt decision to grant federal disaster assistance for local and state governments,” McDonnell said in a press release. “This action will go a long way toward reimbursing local governments for their costs.”

Applying for federal disaster assistance was a lengthy process, said Bob Spieldenner, spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

“What happens is we have to get damage reports from the local governments and then verify those findings, and then we do a formal damage assessment,” Spieldenner said. “We see if the paperwork is what we need, and then we have to wait for the reply. There was a holiday in there too, and that probably impacted the approval from FEMA.”

Spieldenner said the money was going to state and local governments for their efforts involved in the cleanup and protection during the hurricane. It does not go directly to Virginia residents.

FEMA will reimburse up to 75 percent of costs, Spieldenner said. The other 25 percent is split between state and local governments.

“It could take months for the localities to be reimbursed,” Spieldenner said. “This is the beginning of the process. We will be working with localities and hopefully they will get their funds reimbursed.”

Only counties that FEMA thinks has justifiable costs will be reimbursed, said Debbie Powers, deputy coordinator in the Arlington county Office of Emergency Management.

To be eligible for federal relief, each locality has to have incurred a certain amount of expenses, Spieldenner said. The threshold for expenses to determine eligibility for aid is based on a formula that takes into account the population of a particular county or city. Smaller communities need a threshold of up to $40,000 in damages, Spieldenner said.

Counties not approved for disaster assistance now can apply for funds later, if necessary.

“The 28 [localities] that are approved have all passed the threshold,” Spieldenner said. “There is the possibility we can add more if necessary. That’s happened before. Some may not have been ready when the process started.”

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