Little Rock, AR -- As communities recover from the devastating ice storms of December, they face staggering costs that threaten to stretch some budgets to the breaking point. To help Arkansans on the road to recovery, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is reimbursing 90 percent of communities' costs for debris removal through February 27. The State of Arkansas has chosen to reimburse half of the remaining costs, leaving local communities having to pay only 5 percent of the total. For some communities, finding the funds for even this 5 percent presents serious problems.
Fortunately, FEMA will accept volunteer labor and donated equipment and materials to offset the non-federal share of these recovery costs. This means that labor, equipment and materials that were donated by local citizens and businesses during the disaster can be counted, at fair market value, toward the community's share of the match. The following examples illustrate the types of volunteer contributions that could qualify:
Labor: A group of citizens take their chain saws and clear a fallen tree from the courthouse entrance. The county can count the value of this labor at market value. They can also count what rental costs for the chain saws would have been if the saws had been rented, as well as any chain saw gasoline that was donated.
Equipment: A private citizen takes his personal generator to a county- or city-owned hospital that is without power and lets them use it for five days until electricity is restored. The county can count the value of the use of this equipment, at market-value equipment rental rates, as well as any labor donated by the citizen.
Materials: A home improvement store in town donates salt for the road crews to spread on the roads. The county can count the value of the salt, at fair market value.
Volunteer contributions can be counted if they are carrying out a function the city or county would normally have been responsible for. So if a group of citizens helps an elderly couple by removing a downed tree from their property, it would not count toward the community's share of matching funds, because communities are not responsible for debris removal on private property. If they remove a tree from the school grounds, it would count. Many citizens pulled together to help their communities during the ice storms. Now communities can quantify these efforts and count them as their share of matching funds.