Hardest-hit areas get tailored FEMA access
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Federal Emergency Management Agency has reconsidered its decision to deny individual disaster assistance for the June 29 derecho, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Wednesday.
Residents and businesses in the four hardest-hit counties - Kanawha, Fayette, Nicholas and Raleigh - can now apply for federal aid to repair damaged or destroyed property and recoup other storm-related costs.
The move was a partial reversal of FEMA's original Aug. 8 decision to deny individual assistance to the state.
FEMA teams conducted damage surveys in several counties following the storm.
Traditionally, the agency grants individuals and businesses aid only if more than 100 homes or buildings were destroyed in an event.
The storm left more than 500,000 customers without power for days, most people suffered minimal property damage.
With the assistance of the state's congressional delegation, Tomblin administration officials appealed FEMA's initial decision.
They decided to tailor the state's application to the four hardest hit counties.
Among West Virginia homes destroyed in the storm, 42 percent were located in Fayette, Kanawha, Nicholas and Raleigh counties. Sixty percent of homes in those counties had major damage.
FEMA officials decided the damage warranted individual assistance.
"I'm happy my appeal for FEMA to reconsider the needs of our families and businesses was well received," Tomblin said in a statement. "These federal funds will provide much needed help to West Virginians in the hardest hit areas of our state."
In a joint statement issued Wednesday afternoon, the state's congressional representatives praised the decision.
"This is wonderful news for the families that are struggling financially after the devastating derecho hit our state," said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
"Many homes were damaged and lives uprooted, and I am glad that FEMA reversed its decision," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. "West Virginians can now put this difficult time behind them and move forward with their lives."
Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said families should quickly check with FEMA to see if their storm costs are covered.
Businesses and individuals are being asked to call 1-800-621-FEMA or visit www.FEMA.gov to register requests for assistance.
Rahall said he hoped FEMA's decision to reconsider means other counties may receive aid in the future.
"I hope that it opens the door to additional aid for other individuals and families struggling to rebuild in the aftermath of the storm," he said.
Tomblin said state officials are continuing to evaluate post-storm damage assessments and may request additional consideration soon.
"We continue to evaluate the possibility of adding additional counties to the declaration, because we know how important this assistance is for many families throughout West Virginia," Tomblin said.
Contact writer Jared Hunt at email@example.com or 304-348-5148.