The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied a request from the State of Alaska for individual assistance with recovery expenses after September’s storms and flooding in Southcentral Alaska, a week after President Obama declared the incident a federal disaster.
Jeremy Zidek, a spokesperson for the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, says FEMA asked the state on Nov. 28 for additional information regarding the request, but denied it Thursday.
While the disaster declaration frees federal funds to assist governments recovering from damage, FEMA’s decision means only state funds activated by Gov. Sean Parnell’s Sept. 21 state disaster declaration are available to help applicants for individual assistance. The division says 417 people applied for aid by the Nov. 20 state deadline to do so, with 37 also qualifying for temporary housing.
Zidek says had FEMA approved the state’s request, residents would not be able to apply for both state and federal assistance. The state has delayed making payments pending FEMA’s decision, however, because the maximum federal grant amount for individual assistance stands at $31,900, while the state maximum is $15,950.
“We did want to provide that greater amount of money, but FEMA found that (the request) didn’t meet their standards,” Zidek said.
A decision that doesn't make sense to Butte resident Pat Huddleson.
"I don't understand why FEMA can't help these people out," said Huddleson. "That's just disgusting."
A feeling that Huddleson and her neighbors along the Matanuska River in Butte are being left out in the cold.
"I don't think anybody really cares," Huddleson said. "Now I can see that our government really doesn't care. I mean look what they're doing, they're slapping us in the face."
In a Thursday statement John Madden, the division’s director, says state aid is continuing on track despite the setback.
“While we have awaited a determination on federal (individual assistance) the state has been hard at work documenting the damages to individuals and families primary homes, personal property, and transportation” Madden said. “This determination allows the state to process the applications and award grants for repairs that have occurred, and are yet to be completed.”
The state plans to request funds from the Small Business Administration for businesses and individuals affected by the disaster to supplement state assistance. Madden says he expects a quick response from the SBA regarding the request.
Contact Chris Klint