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Virginia asks for federal disaster aid for flood-damaged Buchanan County

Flooding in Buchanan County in far SW VA/Courtesy Roanoke County Fire-Rescue & WCYB
Flooding in Buchanan County in far SW VA/Courtesy Roanoke County Fire-Rescue & WCYB(Roanoke County Fire-Rescue & WCYB)
Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 11:41 AM EDT
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BUCHANAN COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ/Governor’s Office Release) - Governor Ralph Northam has asked President Biden to approve federal assistance to Buchanan County and its residents through a Major Disaster Declaration. The unincorporated area of Hurley, in Buchanan County, sustained significant damage from heavy rain August 30, 2021. The area saw at least eight inches of rain, flash flooding and landslides.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management coordinated preliminary damage assessments with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration’ leading to damage estimates of $13.8 million for public infrastructure, including road washouts, water line damages, and debris removal.

The assessments also showed 31 homes were destroyed, 27 sustained major damage, and eight had minor damage, according to the governor’s office.

If federal assistance is approved, three programs will become available to Virginia. The Individual Assistance, Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Grant Programs would be triggered to assist with recovery efforts.

“When I visited Hurley, I saw firsthand how these areas are suffering and need our help,” said Governor Northam. “I promised Hurley residents that I would do everything I could to help them, and I intend to keep that promise. As we continue with the recovery efforts, I am formally requesting a Major Disaster Declaration from the federal government to ensure that we get access to critical programs and funding that are necessary to assist those who were affected by this disaster.”

“The Virginia Department of Emergency Management stands committed to assisting the communities impacted by this event and recognize that these areas are some of our most vulnerable in the state,” said Virginia Department of Emergency Management State Coordinator Curtis Brown. “Our teams have been on the ground since the start of the event and we are using every available resource to aid in the recovery from this disaster, which includes working to get a declaration to make federal assistance available.”

The following describes the assistance that would be available if aid is approved:

Individual Assistance

If approved, disaster survivors may apply for financial assistance directly to FEMA to make repairs to their homes. Other programs such as disaster unemployment, crisis counseling and disaster legal services may also be available. FEMA would also likely set up a Disaster Recovery Center for survivors to seek these services: fema.gov/assistance/individual/disaster-survivors

Public Assistance

If approved, local, state and private non-profit organizations with infrastructure damage or emergency and debris removal expenditures may apply to FEMA for reimbursement of 75 percent of eligible costs. The FEMA Public Assistance program could take years to be fully reimbursed for disaster related expenditures. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management is the administrative agency for this grant program: fema.gov/press-release/20210318/what-fema-public-assistance

Hazard Mitigation Grant Program

If approved, Virginia will receive funding for projects to reduce the future funding. This program could take 5-7 years to implement. The application phase of this program is 12 months, and FEMA may take 6-18 months to award the project based on environmental and historic review compliance or technical feasibility review. Federal assistance is approved at 75 percent of the total eligible project costs. Local governments and state agencies will apply through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management as the administrating agency: www.fema.gov/es/grants/mitigation/hazard-mitigation

If a Major Disaster Declaration is approved by the President, formal communications about how to register and apply for assistance will be publicized. If the Individual Assistance program is denied, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management will apply for assistance through the Small Business Administration for small interest loans for survivors to make repairs in Buchanan County.

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