FEMA application process begins

Published 12:47 pm Tuesday, July 8, 2008

State and FEMA officials briefed Freeborn County leaders Tuesday about the beginning steps to obtaining federal public assistance dollars for damages caused by last month’s floods.

Freeborn County, along with Fillmore, Houston and Mower counties, were declared federal disaster areas on June 25. The declaration made the local governments within those counties eligible for federal funding for emergency work and repair or replacement completed for disaster-damaged roads and facilities.

This is the fourth time in 10 years that Freeborn County has been eligible for FEMA assistance.

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Bill Hirte, with the Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said all of the funding goes through his office. FEMA obligates money to the state and then the state allocates that money to the counties.

Hirte said regarding the floods from June 7 through 12, public assistance is only available for state, county, townships, school districts and nonprofit organizations that had resources damaged from that disaster. His discussions did not include individual assistance.

For an entity to receive FEMA funding, he said, it cannot be eligible for funding from any other federal agency and cannot be covered by insurance. The damages had to have occurred as a result of the flood event.

FEMA and state officials handed out packets — which included an initial request for public assistance application — to the representatives of each entity.

They filled out the paperwork and then turned them into the officials. Each representative will be notified to set up a kickoff meeting, where they will delve deeper into the specific project with public assistance officials.

Hirte said during the kickoff meeting, public assistance leaders will explain what documentation they will need for the project and figure out what is a reasonable cost to bring the area back up to the way it was before the floods. From this information, a project worksheet will be formed.

He said 75 percent of the eligible costs for repairing or replacing pubic facilities — such as roads, bridges, utilities and buildings — will be funded by FEMA and administered by the state. Fifteen percent of the costs will be funded by the state, and 10 percent will be local costs.

The same is true for debris removal and for emergency measures taken to save lives, protect property and public health.

Hirte encouraged the representatives to also document their administrative costs that have accrued as a result of the floods and the repairs.

He said applications for federal public assistance have to be approved within 30 days of the disaster declaration.

All emergency work needs to be completed within six months of the disaster declaration date, and all permanent work needs to be completed within 18 months of the disaster declaration. Extensions can be granted in some occasions.

Freeborn County Engineer Sue Miller said one of the county’s larger areas for assistance — the County Road 34 washout — will not be eligible for FEMA funding because it is eligible for other federal funding sources. Despite this, she said she is “confident that we have a safety net to get the funding.”

“We’re trying to respond to these events,” she said.

The County 34 washout site has been the location of four separate car wrecks since the floods June 11 and 12, and has led to three deaths and several injuries during the last few weeks.