18 September 2014


Original Story: Detroitnews.com

Lansing – — Gov. Rick Snyder has asked President Barack Obama to declare a major disaster for Metro Detroit because of Aug. 11 flash flooding that caused an estimated $1.1 billion in damage — a step that could bring federal help to cities, residents and businesses for their losses.

Help would include temporary housing, home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses suffered by individuals and businesses, state officials said Wednesday. The public assistance also would help local governments recover some of their costs for repairing damage to roads and public buildings such as schools.

The request is the result of a two-week damage assessment of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties where the governor declared a state of disaster on Aug. 13 that allowed state resources to assist with the recovery, said Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel.

"So many communities were devastated by the historic flood, and we're looking for every available resource to help them recover," Snyder said in a statement.

The $1.1 billion estimate for residential and commercial damage in Metro Detroit is in a letter that U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, wrote and plans to send Thursday to the White House with signatures from Michigan's other congressional delegation members in support of the disaster declaration.

"The Michigan delegation will work closely with FEMA and the president to make sure the governor's request is considered on an urgent basis so that affected communities can get the assistance they need," Levin said.

The White House referred questions to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will make a recommendation to Obama on Snyder's request.

"We go as quickly as possible," FEMA spokeswoman Sandy Jasmund said, confirming the FEMA has received the application in Chicago, but declining to put a time frame on a decision.

After an initial review by FEMA's regional office in Chicago, it will be forwarded to Washington for further review, Jasmund said.

"These are very populated areas, so there's a lot of data," she said. "We want to make sure that we give it our due diligence."

The Michigan congressional delegation's letter emphasized that "effective recovery is beyond the capacity of state and local governments."

"We urge you to make a federal disaster declaration and provide the requested assistance so that communities across Southeast Michigan can rebuild," the letter reads.

FEMA and the Small Business Administration officials spent two and a half weeks in Michigan surveying damage and wrapped up last weekend. FEMA had seven separate teams for the individual assistance review and four teams for the public request.

Snyder said the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division and local leaders conducted a preliminary assessment of the most severely damaged homes, businesses and public facilities in Metro Detroit from Aug. 26 through Sept. 9.

The state is seeking assistance for both individuals as well as local governments and agencies.

The individual assistance would help homeowners and others hurt by the flooding, while money for agencies would cover damage to infrastructure such as roads, overpasses, equipments rental, state or local overtime and other issues.

If Snyder's request is approved, FEMA would create a joint field office with SBA and the state in Michigan and create disaster recovery centers. Under public assistance requests, FEMA reimburses approved projects at 75 percent and the state is responsible or 25 percent of the costs.

Michigan is among the states that have experienced the fewest number of national disasters in the past 12 years — four since 2002 and one in the last six years.

FEMA hasn't declared a natural disaster in Michigan in 2014. It has announced 65 this year, including 32 for major disasters.

Out of 95 disasters approved last year, including 62 major ones, one disaster was declared in Michigan in 2013 — a June 2013 approval for flooding from April 16 to May 14, 2013, in Allegan, Baraga, Barry, Gogebic, Houghton, Ionia, Kent, Keweenaw, Marquette, Midland, Muskegon, Newaygo, Ontonagon, Osceola, Ottawa, and Saginaw counties.

Before then, Michigan hadn't had a disaster approved for federal funding since severe storms, tornadoes and flooding hit the middle and western parts of the state in July 2008. The declaration covered severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding during the period of June 6-13, 2008 in Allegan, Barry, Eaton, Ingham, Lake, Manistee, Mason, Missaukee, Osceola, Ottawa, and Wexford counties.

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