OLYMPIA, Wash. -- This winter Washington was hit with back-to-back storms which resulted in two major Presidential disaster declarations for the severe winter storm and record and near record snow during the period of December 12, 2008 to January 5, 2009 and the severe winter storm, landslides, mudslides, and flooding during the period of January 6-16, 2009. Those declarations opened the door for the state to receive FEMA assistance through the Stafford Act, which provides recovery assistance to individuals and state, local, and tribal governments affected by a disaster.
Washington residents received assistance for individuals and their homes for the January flooding.
However, another type of assistance was provided by FEMA for the both storms. Assistance for debris removal, implementation of emergency measures, and permanent restoration of infrastructure falls into a category of aid called Public Assistance. Washington has received more than $5.5 million in public assistance to date, with hundreds of projects still being processed.
Public Assistance provides eligible state, local, and tribal governments and certain non-profits reimbursement for their work to combat storms and repair public infrastructure - work like emergency levy repair, removing fallen tree limbs, paying emergency overtime to public employees, clearing snow, rebuilding bridges and many other measures.
"Response to a disaster always begins at the local level," said Federal Coordinating Officer Willie Nunn. "Part of our mission is to support the state, local governments and eligible private nonprofits to assist them in the recovery by reimbursement of eligible expenses associated with these disasters."
In addition to the Public Assistance program, the two major Presidential disaster declarations enable the State of Washington to receive yet a third type of assistance, the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Projects may include property acquisition, elevation, earthquake retrofitting, and mitigation planning to reduce vulnerability to future disasters.
"Mitigation encourages protection from future damage," said State Coordinating Officer Kurt Hardin. "Working with FEMA to find ways to reduce future damages, we can reduce the impact to Washington communities and individuals in the next disaster."
FEMA leads and supports the nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the nation from all hazards including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters.