COLUMBIA , Mo. -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) are partnering with local officials to help Missouri communities recover after the recent ice storms.
"We know that the road to recovery can sometimes seem daunting," said Michael L. Karl, FEMA federal coordinating officer. "Our role is to work with our state counterparts at SEMA and to help local officials find the best and shortest route on the road to recovery."
"SEMA and FEMA are involved in recovery every step of the way," said Ronald M. Reynolds, SEMA's state coordinating officer. "We're working to make the process of applying for disaster assistance as easy as possible."
Under the recent presidential disaster declarations in response to the winter storms of November-December 2006 and January 2007, FEMA's Public Assistance program was authorized in 40 Missouri counties and the City of St. Louis , with more jurisdictions pending. The Public Assistance program reimburses the state, which in turn reimburses local governments and eligible private nonprofit entities, for 75 percent of the eligible costs, including the cost of emergency services and removal of storm-related debris from public rights-of-ways.
The process begins with Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) teams, comprised of representatives from FEMA, SEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and local emergency managers and/or officials. Sometimes the team can have additional personnel, as needed. Often, multiple PDA teams will visit a single county to make sure the disaster-related damages are seen and accounted for.
In the case of a dispute regarding a county's eligibility for disaster assistance, an additional PDA may be scheduled.
Once a county has been declared eligible for Public Assistance, SEMA conducts applicant briefings for local officials to explain the program and the process of applying for federal disaster assistance. To date, SEMA has conducted 17 Public Assistance briefings with local public officials, with more briefings scheduled.
After the SEMA briefings, FEMA holds kick-off meetings to assist the applicants on a one-on-one basis. A FEMA Public Assistance Officer is then assigned to every eligible applicant to provide technical assistance and guidance on everything from bidding a contract to filling out a Project Worksheet.
"Our Public Assistance Officers can help local officials understand what kind of projects might be eligible for federal disaster assistance," explained Karl. "We can even help them fill out the paperwork."
To date, SEMA and FEMA have received 109 requests for Public Assistance from the November-December 2006 disaster and 283 requests for Public Assistance from the January 2007 disaster, with more requests expected.
Local officials who want to file a claim for Public Assistance or find out when the next applicant briefing is scheduled should call the Missouri State Emergency Operations Center , (573) 526-9100 or visit the SEMA website: www.sema.dps.mo.gov .
The deadlines to submit requests for Public Assistance to SEMA are February 14 and 15, depending on the county and the disaster declaration. Consult the SEMA website for details.
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.