City, state agencies calculating if FEMA can help with tornado recovery

(WISH Photo)

KOKOMO, Ind. (WISH) – Cleaning up the mess from last month’s tornadoes is a costly project and it’s far from finished. The question now whether or not the federal government might step in to help cover part of the expenses.

24-Hour News 8 learned earlier this week that the Howard County Emergency Management Agency doesn’t plan on applying for individual assistance from FEMA. However, it is working to find out if it can apply for public assistance.

Individual assistance means FEMA would give grant funds directly to tornado victims. Public assistance would go to local and state government agencies as well as non-profits.

But just because Kokomo and other communities were hit hard doesn’t automatically mean FEMA will send money.

Local governments need to meet a certain criteria in terms of dollars spent.

For about two weeks, Tim Gasaway has seen nothing but hard work churning and chipping away across the road from his home on Boulevard Street.

“It’s just constant,” he said. “They start about 7:00 in the morning and go ’til about 4:00 in the afternoon.”

The previously empty parking lot across from his home is now a makeshift sawmill for the all brush and trees last month’s tornadoes destroyed.

Kokomo’s street department, as well as many other agencies including the Indiana Department of Transportation, have a mountainous workload that never seems to go away.

“Kind of heartbreaking really,” Gasaway said, realizing so many of the trees filled neighborhoods and yards.

The damage and workload to clean it up is also expensive.

City departments like police, fire and streets are now working to figure out if they can get public assistance from FEMA.

“(It would) help with labor costs, equipment costs, overtime, a lot a lot of expenses,” said Janice Hart, Howard County EMA Director.

“The next step is seeing the costs meet the criteria. After crunching the numbers, city leaders say all the government agencies from local to the state and non-profits will need to have spent almost $10 million responding and recovering from the tornado in order for FEMA shell out grant funds.

In Gasaway’s eyes, it’s a goal he hopes they could meet based on the constant work he’s witnessed.

But it’s just a matter now if FEMA sees it the same way.

“I don’t what it really takes to you know get to the point but I would see why we should be overlooked,” he said.

City and state leaders met with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security today regarding public assistance from FEMA.

All of the agencies will now calculate their past and estimated future spending and turn that into IDHS next week, which will then potentially apply for the funding later this month.

Comments are closed.