- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2012

Virginia is getting funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deal with the impact of the intense storm that rocked the region in late June, and Maryland and the District are hoping FEMA will reimburse some of their costs as well.

On Friday, FEMA confirmed that Virginia, which applied for storm relief funds earlier this month, would get the federal assistance it seeks. Maryland and the District both applied for funds Friday.

Virginia’s Department of Emergency Management and FEMA officials will reimburse funds from a joint office in Richmond. The June 29 storm caused $25 million in damage throughout the state.

The work to use those newly approved funds is just beginning.

“[Approval is] just the beginning part of it, and the rest of it usually takes several months to work out,” said Bob Spieldenner, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

Each request for funds must be publicly documented and assessed by FEMA. The federal agency will pay 75 percent of the cost for eligible projects and the remaining 25 percent is divided between state and local government, with the split based on the local government’s financial strength.

“Projects’ eligibility and cost assessments will be made to ensure that taxpayer dollars are appropriately spent,” said FEMA spokesman Peter Herrick Jr.

Funds likely will go toward reimbursing items such as the costs of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s debris removal immediately after the storm. More than 200 roads were closed at the height of the damage, Mr. Spieldenner said. Electrical co-ops also may be eligible for some reimbursements, he said. During the aftermath, 1.3 million customers lost power — the third most in Virginia’s history.

Additionally, local governments can apply for reimbursements for operating emergency centers and cooling shelters, overtime worked by emergency officials and any damage to public infrastructure such as roads.

Maryland and the District both applied for FEMA funding Friday. Maryland incurred $19.4 million in damage, with $10.3 million in Montgomery County alone, according to Edward McDonough, spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. To qualify, each state must meet a particular level of need.

“We hope that federal reimbursement will help cushion the economic blow of these storms,” said Ken Mallette, executive director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

Within the local FEMA region, West Virginia and Virginia are the only states to receive funding so far.

Virginia did not apply for individual assistance, which provides funding to repair residents’ homes and property. Fewer than 100 homes were damaged by the storms and most were covered by insurance, Mr. Spieldenner said.

In Virginia, 62 local governments already have been approved to receive some of the funding, but others can still apply. Additional localities have already submitted damage assessments, Mr. Spieldenner said.

Virginia was also approved for hazard mitigation funds to help local governments with projects to prevent further damage, like raising houses to prevent flooding.

Mr. Spieldenner said flooding is the state’s number-one danger.