Cumberland Times-News

Local News

July 14, 2014

State rejects county's flood relief request

— CUMBERLAND — State emergency officials have declined a second request by Allegany County commissioners for help in getting federal funds for flood recovery efforts after June flooding which caused more than $1 million in damages. State officials, though, did say they would work with the county on at least one additional aid possibility through the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The executive director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, Kenneth Mallette, responded to the commissioners’ request in a  July 9 letter. Local damages simply did not meet federal requirements for a disaster declaration.

“The declaration criteria for public assistance is based on a mathematical calculation of damages including both county-by-county cost thresholds and a statewide cost threshold which the counties meeting their county threshold must collectively meet in order to qualify. In this case, while Allegany and Washington counties have undoubtedly and significantly exceeded their individual county thresholds, the costs fall well short of the required $8,025,237.38.  The counties do not, therefore, reach a threshold sufficient to qualify for federal public disaster assistance,” Mallette wrote. Damages to individuals, another criteria for aid, also fell short.

“Maryland is considered a mid-sized state, and on average FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) looks for 582 homes with major damage or which are destroyed before approving individual assistance. ... In the case of the June 12 storm, Allegany and Washington have 207 homes affected and a small percentage of that number suffered major damage or were destroyed,” Mallette said.

By way of comparison, Mallette said that an initial aid request based on damage to 477 homes from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was denied by FEMA.

“Unfortunately, in light of the facts and FEMA’s standards for applying the Federal Stafford Disaster Relief Act, the state will not be submitting a request for a federal disaster declaration to FEMA in this case,” Mallette said.

There remains some hope for help for the county, however, Mallette said.

“MEMA is now working with your county and the Small Business Administration (SBA) on a physical disaster declaration which, if approved, may provide low-interest loans to the homes and businesses that sustained damages not covered by insurance.  The SBA application must be submitted within 60 days of the incident, in this case early August. I am optimistic that both counties will receive an SBA disaster declaration, and I am committed to working with you through the application process,” Mallette said in the letter.

Commissioners made the request for reconsideration in a letter dated July 3. The flooding occurred after heavy rains on June 12. Allegany County documented $1.7 million in damages, much more than the $262,000 in damages required for the local threshold, but was not able to meet the state threshold, even with Washington County’s damages added.

Some areas in the county reported up to 5 inches of rain and some of the worst flood damage occurred in Cresaptown and at Cumberland’s Greene Street underpass.

Among the most serious damages in the county were those to the Cresaptown Volunteer Fire Department and Calvary Baptist Church and Calvary Christian Academy.

The fire department reported about $300,000 in damages and the church and school reported $275,000.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.

 

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