The last rain storm has severely impacted many of the Commonwealth's cities and towns, and their residents and businesses. In the days ahead, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) will work as expeditiously as possible to gather damage estimates and to determine whether the Commonwealth meets minimum thresholds to apply for federal disaster assistance. MEMA has communicated with local emergency management directors in the impacted areas, and those communications will continue.
Municipal emergency management officials play a critical role in gathering information about municipal response and recovery costs and uninsured losses suffered by individuals, families and businesses. It is imperative that local emergency management officials work closely with, and be responsive to MEMA inquiries over the next few days and weeks.
There are two broad categories of disaster assistance that the Commonwealth may be eligible to receive: Individual Assistance and Public Assistance. These disaster programs are summarized below.
There are no specific thresholds that must be met in order to apply for and receive an Individual Assistance Declaration. Rather, Massachusetts must show that the disaster has impacted individuals, families and businesses to such an extent that the state cannot recover on it's own without Federal Assistance. In making its eligibility determination, FEMA not only looks at the level of impact, but the agencies and organizations who are assisting and their capacity to aid individuals, families, and businesses. If the President issues an Individual Assistance Disaster Declaration, eligible individuals, families and businesses may receive housing assistance (temporary housing or grants to repair homes), cash grants, low interest loans, and other types of assistance such as counseling, legal assistance, and social security and veterans benefits.
Under the supervision of MEMA, a Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) began on March 17 th. By sending multi-discipline assessment teams into impacted areas, MEMA, in collaboration with FEMA and local emergency management officials are evaluating the extent of uninsured losses to homes and businesses in impacted cities and towns. Many of you have called requesting that these PDA teams visit a specific community in your district. In order to speed the process and establish the scope and extent of the damage that has occurred, the PDA teams are visiting as many of the hard hit areas as possible, but not every community will be individually assessed. However, just because a community is not visited does not mean that it will be excluded from assistance. Once we meet the FEMA thresholds for receiving an Individual Disaster Assistance Declaration, assistance will be available to all eligible individuals, families and businesses in all impacted cities and towns. The PDA teams are scheduled to do assessments through the end of this week and beginning of next, or until we (hopefully) meet the thresholds, whichever comes first.
A Presidential Disaster Declaration for Public Assistance would facilitate reimbursement to cities, towns and the state for 75 percent of their eligible costs of (i) damage to public facilities (roads, bridges, public buildings, public docks and wharfs, public sea walls, etc.) and (ii) emergency protective measures (emergency public safety costs). There is a two part process to determine whether the Governor may apply for a Presidential Disaster Declaration for Public Assistance. First, total costs (state and municipal costs) associated with damage to public facilities and emergency protective measures must exceed $8.1M (the state threshold). Second, only those state and county costs incurred in counties that exceed county cost thresholds are eligible for reimbursement. Applicable county damage thresholds are set forth below.
To determine whether the state and any of its counties are eligible for Public Assistance, MEMA has asked all local emergency management directors and state agencies to submit estimates of the costs associated with emergency response and damage to public facilities (roads, bridges, tunnels, sea walls, wharfs, etc.) If these damage estimates suggest that the state will be eligible to apply for Public Assistance, MEMA, in collaboration with FEMA, will dispatch PDA teams into the impacted cities and towns to further examine the nature and extent of damages to public facilities and emergency response costs.
We estimate that it may take two to three weeks to determine whether the state and any of its counties are eligible to apply, through the Governor, for a Presidential Disaster Declaration for Public Assistance. The Division of Local Services has posted both a FEMA Fact Sheet and a presentation on the Disaster Recovery Process from EOPS on their website.
For more information and for individual contacts, please stay tuned to www.mass.gov/eopss.