ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Alaskans in the Chugach Rural Educational Attendance Area (REAA), the Matanuska Susitna and Denali Boroughs, and the City of Hooper Bay have witnessed how disasters threaten more than personal property and homes. The Hooper Bay fire Aug. 3-4, and the flooding, landslides and mudslides of Aug. 15-25 damaged public buildings, utility systems, bridges and highways, not to mention disrupting communications and emergency services.
President Bush signed two Federal disaster declarations in October authorizing the release of grants through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Public Assistance (PA) program to help these communities recover. These grants are available for local governments, State agencies, Indian tribes, Alaska native villages, and certain private non-profit organizations.
"The Presidential declarations opened the door to FEMA grants that help public entities with reconstruction of their infrastructure," said Bill Lokey, Federal Coordinating Officer for these disasters. "The PA Program strengthens communities which do not have the means or resources to bounce back from a disaster, helping to ensure a community's important public needs are met."
To date, three government entities have applied for help with losses from the Hooper Bay fire, and 12 have initiated project worksheets to recover costs from the August flood.
FEMA's disaster grants to Alaska are based on a 75 percent federal reimbursement, with the State accepting responsibility for the remaining 25 percent. As eligible projects are approved, FEMA obligates the funds to the State for administration to the applicant.
In addition to disaster recovery, the Public Assistance program further helps communities by encouraging protection from future damage. The program provides assistance to include hazard mitigation measures as part of repairing damaged facilities during the recovery period. Site-specific retrofitting, or other steps taken to protect against future damage, might be included in the work if the applicant can demonstrate a favorable cost-benefit ratio.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with State and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters, and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.