CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- West Virginia’s public entities are facing daunting ? and often expensive ? challenges in the wake of the recent tornadoes and flooding.
Administered by the state of West Virginia and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Public Assistance Program supports and coordinates help to neighborhoods, municipalities, counties, states and certain private nonprofit agencies to recover from their losses. The program is separate from the Individual and Households Program that provides assistance to homeowners, renters and businesses.
“FEMA Public Assistance dollars come to the community through a cost-sharing partnership between the state and local authorities and the federal government,” said Charleston-based Federal Coordinating Officer Deanne Criswell. “Normally, the federal government funds at least 75 percent of the costs of recovery while the rest is shared by the appropriate public bodies. It could be the state, the county, the town or city or a nonprofit that provides what are called services of a governmental nature.”
These might include privately owned utilities, cooperatives, emergency medical services, clinics, hospitals and schools, Criswell said. Non-qualifying nonprofits may be able to secure loans from the Small Business Administration.
Public Assistance dollars are available to clean up debris, fix damaged bridges and roads, put water systems and utilities back in order, rebuild libraries and replace damaged books, repair hospitals and emergency services, rebuild schools and universities and restore damaged public parks.
The West Virginia counties that were approved for Public Assistance are Doddridge, Harrison Lincoln, Logan, Marion, Mingo, Monongalia, Preston, Ritchie, Roane, Taylor and Wayne.
As soon as practicable after a disaster is declared and the areas that are eligible for help are designated, the state, assisted by FEMA, conducts “applicant briefings” to inform potential beneficiaries what help is available and how to apply for it. The public entities have just 30 days after the disaster declaration is signed by the president to file for assistance.
After the briefings are concluded and requests for assistance are filed, a “kickoff meeting” is held in which damages are reviewed, needs assessed and a plan of action formulated. A combined state/federal team determines the eligible work and its estimated cost and prepares a “project worksheet.” FEMA then reviews and approves the worksheets and obligates the federal share of the costs. These funds ultimately go to the state for disbursement to the local applicants.
For so-called “small projects,” those that will spend less than $66,400, once a project is approved payment is made by FEMA and no further accounting is required. For projects that exceed the threshold, payment is made after the completion of the project, although interim payments might be forthcoming. The management of the larger jobs becomes the responsibility of the state while FEMA continues to monitor the progress and ensures that the work is properly paid for and complies with applicable laws and regulations.
By the close of business on April 9, some 46 requests for public assistance had been filed with FEMA by governmental agencies in West Virginia and 12 filed by private nonprofits.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.