LACEY, Wash. -- Residents in Washington have witnessed how disasters threaten more than personal property and homes. The series of winter storms beginning in November damaged public buildings, utility systems, bridges and highways, not to mention disrupting communications and emergency services.
President Bush signed two Federal disaster declarations authorizing the release of grants through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Public Assistance (PA) program to help several Washington communities recover. These grants are available for local governments, State agencies, Indian tribes, 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 Libby Turner, 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."
The State and FEMA are currently holding briefings for nearly 300 applicants in the declared counties to explain the application process. The damage from both disasters impacted a variety of infrastructure including roads, bridges, and power distribution facilities.
FEMA's disaster grants to Washington are based on a 75 percent federal reimbursement. 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.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, economic status or retaliation. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, you should call FEMA toll-free at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or contact your State Office of Equal Rights. If suspicious of any abuse of FEMA programs, please contact the fraud hotline at 1-800-323-8603.