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FEMA addresses reimbursement

Wayne Lamoreaux hands out informational packets to attendees of Tuesday afternoon's meeting with representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security and Emergency Management at the Nobles County Government Center in Worthington. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- The next step in the process toward recovery from the April ice storm was taken Tuesday afternoon as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) officials met with representatives from across Nobles County.

There were other such applicant briefings for Jackson and Cottonwood counties Monday; Rock County Tuesday; and Murray County today.

"This process today, we have two goals. The first goal is to get all the eligible jurisdictions signed up for the FEMA public assistance program," HSEM Public Assistance Officer Bill Hirte said. "We have a request for public assistance form we are going to fill out. ... That's the first requirement of you as eligible jurisdiction; you have to fill that out so we can give that form to the FEMA public assistance program."

Hirte then explained the FEMA field staff will come out and visit each entity and collect documentation and create project worksheets.

"Once they gather that information, it becomes an eligible project worksheet and FEMA hands it back to my staff," Hirte explained. "My staff will receive the money from the federal and state side and bundle that money together to the eligible project applications and send it off to you."

Hirte also went through an overview of the program, which contained guidelines and policy information that must be followed to get reimbursement.

The preliminary damage assessment had already been concluded. During that meeting, it was determined the amount of damage exceeded the $7.2 million threshold needed to eligible for a federal disaster. At the first meeting, the damage was estimated at more than $26 million.

"Locally, you responded, and locally, you started recovering," said Angie Brown, disaster recovery coordinator with HSEM. "Unfortunately, but fortunately enough, there was enough damage to make it a federal event. FEMA is here, and we thank FEMA for coming to town to help us in our recovery efforts."

During the meeting, each entity represented filled out a request for public assistance. The FEMA and HSEM staff went through a packet of information, which included the process, category of damages and time frames.

The next step for the applicants is a kick-off meeting.

"The purpose of the kick-off meeting is to, No. 1, introduce the FEMA field staff to you," Hirte said. "They will be working with you on a one-on-one basis to gather information. The kick-off meeting will set up steps that you'll have to take in order for FEMA to gather information you're going to have to submit to them."

Another goal is to get the project worksheets started.

"Project worksheets are the detailed information of what was damaged, how extensive it was and the type of damage it is," Hirte said. "There's going to be a scope of work they are going to have to fill in, and that's the steps require to go back to the pre-disaster condition. No. 3 is the cost estimate."

There are seven different categories of damages eligible for reimbursement: debris removal; protective measures; road systems; water control facilities; public buildings and equipment; public utilities; parks, recreational areas and other facilities.

Hirte explained all applicants need to be identified within 30 days of the disaster declaration. Since it was declared on May 3, the cutoff will be June 2.

"We want to make sure we have everybody accounted for that is eligible," Hirte said.

The information and project worksheets will look to be done 30 days after the kick-off meeting.

That meeting will be May 22, starting the clock on those timelines.

Sarah Wolfe, who is with FEMA Region V out of Chicago, reiterated the process.

"FEMA is coming to town, FEMA is in town," Wolfe said. "My staff is in processing. We have 15 to 20 individuals who will be here to write and prepare grants for the damages that were incurred by the local communities."

The biggest objective for Wolfe is to get the full amount of eligible reimbursement.

"I want to get you every dollar you're eligible for," she said. "One of the reasons we go through all this stuff and all these programs is to get you thinking, 'What damages did I have? I wonder if FEMA will cover this.' It's always worth asking."

Daily Globe Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.