United Way increasing fundraising after FEMA denies Hurley assistance

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam visited Buchanan County to survey flood damage and thank those who...
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam visited Buchanan County to survey flood damage and thank those who are helping with recovery.(wdbj7)
Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 3:56 PM EDT
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HURLEY, Va. (WDBJ) - The Hurley Long Term Recovery Group (LTRG) is renewing its call for donations of funding and volunteers after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied Virginia’s request for help in repairing and rebuilding homes in Hurley.

According to a release, including the denial letter from FEMA, deadly floods damaged around 200 homes in Hurley August 30, FEMA stated the disaster lacked “severity and magnitude.”

FEMA initially responded to Virginia’s request for a Declaration of Major Emergency in Hurley Oct. 26 by authorizing public assistance for Buchanan County and the Commonwealth of Virginia to repair roads and other public infrastructure, and to develop mitigation plans for future disasters.

FEMA has since denied assistance to individuals and families in Hurley, sending a letter to the office of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam October 29, stating in part:

“The damage to the infrastructure was significant in the area designated for Public Assistance. However, based on our review of all of the information available, including the joint Individual Assistance Preliminary Damage Assessments, it has been determined that the impact to the individuals and households from this event was not of such severity and magnitude to warrant the designation of Individual Assistance under FEMA-4628-DR. Therefore, your request for Individual Assistance is denied.”

County Administrator Craig Horn says the Buchanan County Board of Supervisors immediately voted to appeal the FEMA decision but is not expecting an immediate answer. Horn says representatives with FEMA told them it would entertain a request for an appeal within 30 days of its ruling, but has offered no timeline for responding to that request.

The LTRG, made up of community leaders and representatives of the United Way of Southwest Virginia, responded to the FEMA denial by intensifying its own fund-raising efforts on behalf of the residents of Hurley.

“FEMA’s ruling comes despite the fact that the Virginia Department of Emergency Management assessed 44 homes in Hurley as ‘destroyed,’” said Travis Staton, president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia, the LTRG’s fiscal agent. “The LTRG has been raising funds with the expectation that those funds would complement FEMA’s assistance to the community. We strongly urge FEMA to grant the appeal in a timely manner.”

The LTRG has raised $236,000 to date, but hopes to significantly raise that figure in the coming days as word of FEMA’s ruling spreads.

“The people of Hurley waited for weeks for the federal bureaucracy to work, only to be denied help in rebuilding their homes just as freezing temperatures arrived,” Staton said. “Despite the work of many volunteers over the last few weeks, for which we are very grateful, we still have families here who cannot yet return to their homes. The need for assistance is immediate and real.”

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