PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- When a disaster strikes, damaged public facilities add to the disruption of people’s lives. Bridges can be damaged or destroyed along with roads, public buildings, parks and water treatment plants. Tons of debris can clog roads, ditches and public spaces, and communications and emergency services can be disrupted.
The nor’easter that blew through New England in April 2007 tore up many New Hampshire communities. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Public Assistance Program is providing a helping hand to communities and state agencies, and certain private nonprofit organizations that were damaged by the severe storms and flooding. So far, more than $1.24 million in Public Assistance grants have been made available to New Hampshire communities.
“It is just as important for city and town governments to apply for assistance as it is for individual applicants,” said Michael Poirier, state coordinating officer, N.H. Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM). “This federal program provides financial assistance that is vital to the recovery process as it enables communities to rebuild without putting an additional burden on residents.”
Under the presidential disaster declaration of April 27, Public Assistance is available to local governments in all New Hampshire counties. To date, 209 eligible applicants that include communities, eligible private nonprofits and state agencies have filed Requests for Public Assistance to initiate a disaster claim.
“By helping local and state governments recover, federal disaster assistance has a positive impact on every individual in those communities,” said Albie Lewis, federal coordinating officer. “In close cooperation with state and local officials, we are working to ensure New Hampshire communities receive all eligible assistance.”
FEMA assigns project officers to work with local officials during the recovery process. Project officers sit down with town and city officials one-on-one to discuss which types of emergency expenses and projects are federally reimbursable; and, they walk through the process of rebuilding structures to resist damage in the future. Project worksheets are developed and used to outline the scope of repair work needed and to document costs.
During the information gathering phase, FEMA environmental and historic preservation officers identify potential environmental and historical issues and conduct agency consultations related to threatened and endangered species, essential fish habitats and historic properties. All projects are subject to review by the environmental and historic preservation officers as appropriate.
For projects that are approved, FEMA will pay 75 percent of the cost. These projects typically include debris removal, emergency services related to the flooding, and repairing or replacing damaged public facilities. Eligible facilities include schools, libraries and other public buildings, roads, bridges, water control facilities, utilities and recreational facilities. Nonprofit organizations may qualify for assistance to restore certain types of facilities that include educational, utility, emergency, medical, custodial care and other facilities that provide essential government types of services.
FEMA coordinates the federal government’s role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.