Friday, August 3, 2012

Roanoke City knows the drill when applying for disaster relief

A casualty of the storm

Roanoke City is among the list of over 60 cities and counties that will be eligible for federal disaster assistance in the wake of the July 29 storm. According to Amelia Merchant, director of management and budget the estimate still stands at $500,000 but cleanup continues especially in the Solid Waste Division.

“We don’t know at this point what we may be eligible for in terms of what the total amount is that is going to be available to the city,” said Merchant.

Some costs that are eligible for reimbursement include activation of emergency crews to respond to the storm; opening of cooling centers and shelters; debris removal; repairs to publicly-owned property such as roads, water and sewer systems; and damage to electrical systems. Virginia is not eligible for federal individual or business assistance because most were insured for the damages.

Governor Bob McDonnell said, “I ask that citizens and businesses continue to lend a helping hand to those in need by donating what you can to the Virginia Disaster Relief Fund. I salute all those who have been heavily involved in disaster assistance throughout the Commonwealth … It truly takes everyone working together to help our families and communities recover from disasters.”

Congressman Morgan Griffith said that he “welcomes this good news.  I’m pleased that our local governments and state government will receive some help from FEMA.  For the areas that were not included, I am working with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to see how that situation can be reconsidered.”

The process of receiving assistance is not an easy task. Merchant said that each individual department has to provide documentation on all of their costs including receipts for purchases made specifically for the cleanup. “They will keep a compiled list of who was working, what equipment they used, any motor fuel that was used in the vehicle specifically for the cleanup and anything that had to be purchased for the cleanup,” she said.

The documentation package on project worksheets will be sent to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. They may have questions and “they may want to come onsite … review documentation … talk to people who worked the cleanup – it can stretch on for awhile before it is actually determined what we will be eligible to recover,” said Merchant.

It is quite an extensive undertaking in “having to prove that there were folks who were actually working specifically on the cleanup.” Employees document their work tasks for the day and apply their time associated with storm damage to a specific work order. That data is in the time tracking system for “who was doing work, where they were, what it was they corrected and all of the debris that’s being sent to be disposed of is being documented into the tonnage.” Every penny that the city requests from FEMA must have supporting documentation.

Merchant said, “we know the drill” after they had gone through past flood disasters. There is a point person in each department and “they know what they need to do,” she said.

Mike Guzo, the emergency management coordinator will handle the final document submission and will serve as point person for VDEM and FEMA. The department of management and budget is helping compiling the information but the other departments are charged with keeping the documentation and applying the summaries and retaining the receipts. If FEMA or VDEM ask for detailed documentation “[the department] will have it already compiled,” said Merchant.

FEMA and VDEM have to scrutinize the documentation from every locality. “It can be a long process in terms of their review,” she said. There will be one individual point of contact with FEMA that will work with the City of Roanoke. With all the documentation being completed upfront and the city’s previous experience dealing with flood disasters Merchant doesn’t expect any delay as a result of repeated requests from FEMA or VDEM for more information. “We should be providing them with everything they need first time around,” she said.

Merchant is not aware of a specific deadline for submission to FEMA or VDEM but in total it could take up to six months to compile, submit and hear back from VDEM or FEMA on the amount of relief Roanoke City can expect to receive. They will be looking at the final cost of cleanup over the next week or so she said. They will gather as a group in mid-August when the cleanup is expected to wrap up.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Community, Finance, Local Events

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