- Associated Press - Sunday, October 15, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Since 1998, the federal government has given Virginia and its cities and counties more than $600 million to help recover from hurricanes, crippling blizzards and summer floods.

But a handful of local governments have argued the figure should be higher. That’s because they failed to get a total of nearly $5 million in disaster aid for certain projects after a years-long appeals process with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The haggling was over emergency responder pay, removing tree stumps or repairing wires, among other storm-related costs.

According to an analysis by The Associated Press, some local governments and nonprofit organizations across the nation have received less than expected from FEMA after a disaster. Others were asked to repay some or all of the aid they received for a project. FEMA often concluded certain projects failed to comply with its voluminous requirements or decided it shouldn’t have approved the payouts in the first place.

For example, FEMA funneled more than $200 million into Virginia through its public assistance program after Hurricane Isabel in 2003. But it ultimately declined to spend more than $2 million that was requested for tree stump removal in some of central Virginia’s cities and counties. The agency ruled the work wasn’t eligible because the stumps were less than 24 inches in size.

After the February 2010 blizzard known as “Snowmaggedon,” FEMA helped Virginia dig out with nearly $28 million. But it denied Fairfax County’s request to help cover the cost of nearly $2 million in emergency services.

FEMA said Fairfax lacked documentation to show that longer hours logged by dispatchers and the sheriff’s office were directly related to the storm. The agency said the same for additional costs incurred by the fire department.

All told, FEMA has funded more than 10,000 projects in Virginia that add up to $616 million. There were nine appeals of denied projects. Five failed, and three recouped at least some of the money that was initially requested. One appeal was completely successful.

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