- The Washington Times - Friday, October 21, 2011

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray formally requested help from the Obama administration to pay for $6.8 million in damage from the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that stunned the region on Aug. 23.

The Gray administration says it needs a disaster declaration from the president before it can request funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for “repairs to schools universities, hospitals, government buildings, roads, bridges and tunnels damaged by the quake.”

The earthquake caused both structural and cosmetic damage in the city and closed schools. Among non-government entities, Mr. Gray is seeking about $15 million to repair the Washington National Cathedral.

Mr. Gray’s request for assistance includes a reimbursement toward the D.C. government’s expenses — more than $4.3 million in damage to educational facilities and more than $2.4 million to other city buildings — and funding to offset more than $22.5 million in overall damage that affects city residents and businesses.

No one was seriously injured in the quake, which the U.S. Geological Survey said was centered about 34 miles north of Richmond, near Mineral, Va. The District’s monuments and museums were evacuated, and Freedom Plaza was jammed with tourists and federal workers who watched as emergency vehicles raced up and down city streets.

The Washington Monument has been closed indefinitely while the National Park Service assesses cracks in the iconic landmark.

It is unclear whether Mr. Gray’s request will be granted, either partially or in full. FEMA recently denied Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s request for assistance for property owners in Louisa County, the epicenter of the quake. Mr. McDonnell has indicated he will appeal.

Shortly after the quake, the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer provided $5 million in budget authority to the Department of Real Estate Services and $5 million to the Office of Public Education Facilities Maintenance to cover the cost of inspections and repairs to District facilities.

The city must pay back half of the contingency funds during the coming fiscal year and the remaining half during fiscal year 2013.

Among the damage, D.C. officials “red-flagged” 13 schools after the earthquake for mostly cosmetic issues. One high school, the School Without Walls, had to send its students to Eastern High School for two days while crews completed masonry repairs.