By Marcy Stamper
Federal and state teams are gathering supplemental information about the extent and cost of fire-related damages for an appeal of the denial of a disaster declaration that would help individuals who lost homes and property in the fires.
The teams are determining the scope of the damage, which has been expanded to include destruction from the mudslides and flooding last week, said Pat Stone, who handles external affairs for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the Carlton Complex disaster.
Gov. Jay Inslee determined that the extent of the disaster exceeds the ability of the county, state or volunteer organizations to handle response and recovery. The appeal will be submitted to the regional FEMA office and ultimately to President Obama.
If approved, FEMA’s individual assistance program would allow people affected by the fire to apply for grants up to $34,000 to help with uninsured housing losses, special unemployment benefits and mental health counseling, although average grants are far lower.
The president approved a disaster declaration providing aid to the county, towns and utility companies for damage to public infrastructure last month. That program compensates public entities for 75 percent of the costs involved with repair, including labor and materials. With $35 million of damage to roads, water systems and powerlines, the county easily surpassed the $9.3 million threshold. There is no financial threshold for FEMA’s individual assistance program.
An individual assistance declaration is less common than the public infrastructure aid and, even if it is granted, the intent is to help with critical expenses not covered by insurance or other programs, according to Erin Ward, who handles external affairs for FEMA’s regional office.
The deadline for the state’s appeal is Sept. 11.