From Staff Reports
OAKLAND — Congressman John Delaney and Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin have co-authored a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator W. Craig Fugate urging that individual assistance for Garrett County residents be added to the major disaster declaration for the state of Maryland.
“Garrett County was hit extremely hard by Hurricane Sandy and the people of Western Maryland will remember this storm and the damage it did for a long time,” stated Delaney in a news release.
“Of specific concern to me is that at least 23 homes were damaged by the storm and without the individual assistance designation from FEMA, these residents and homeowners will not be able to receive federal assistance. I encourage Administrator Fugate to reconsider Maryland’s request for individual assistance.”
Gov. Martin O’Malley requested individual assistance for Garrett County on Dec. 12. However, that request was denied Dec. 14.
In a Dec. 12 letter to President Barack Obama, Cardin and Mikulski led the Maryland congressional delegation in expressing their strong support for O’Malley’s appeal for individual disaster assistance for five Maryland counties, including Garrett County.
“Superstorm Sandy’s wrath had a measurable impact on residents of Maryland, and especially on the residents of Garrett County,” stated Mikulski, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “More than two months after Sandy, it’s important for these residents to know they have a federal government on their side. Maryland suffered a double whammy. Our coastal areas along the beloved Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean were hit by the hurricane. In Garrett County, called the Switzerland of Maryland, we were hit by a blizzard. The TV cameras have left, but the compelling human need has not.”
The damage to homes and businesses during the strom is magnified when considering the degree to which the economy is linked to tourism, states the letter.
It is estimated that the storm cost the county $600,000 in lost sales tax from disruption of tourism in addition to the structural damage.
“Residents of Garrett County were seriously impacted by Hurricane Sandy, and individual assistance would significantly help businesses and individuals recover from the property damage they sustained,” stated Cardin. “There are not many individuals who can financially bear the burden of major weather-related events that impact their communities.”
An individual assistance designation would allow residents or business owners to be eligible for federal assistance if they have incurred significant property damage or loss and if they do not have the insurance or other resources to meet their needs.
“I’m not afraid to admit that we were overwhelmed at first. It was a monster of a storm,” said Commissioner Jim Raley during a press conference in November.
FEMA has designated Garrett County as eligible for public assistance, which provides supplemental grant assistance for the repair and restoration of publicly owned facilities and designated nonprofit properties.
Public assistance has also been designated for Allegany, Frederick, Montgomery and Washington counties in the 6th District.
The county is still in the process of working with FEMA to get the public assistance and has only completed the entire process for one department, according to Wendy Yoder, director of the Garrett County Department of Financial Services.
“The roads department will receive the largest reimbursement,” said Yoder. “All eligible county departments will qualify for reimbursement under emergency protective services and the roads department will qualify for reimbursement under both emergency protective services and debris removal.”
During a November business meeting in Allegany County, Raley thanked O’Malley along with neighboring counties for their assistance during the storm.
“It crippled us, we had to call on many resources,” Raley said.