County FEMA funds doubtful but individual assistance may be available

Published 10:00 am Saturday, April 8, 2023

On Tuesday, Emergency Management Director Zac Steele gave an update to the Troup County Board of Commissioners about damage assessments and potential federal relief funds. Federal funds for public assistance are unexpected at this point but individuals could see some relief.

Steele said that because most of the damage from the March 26 storm was in Troup County, the assessments are unlikely to meet the $19 million threshold needed for public assistance.

Public assistance helps local governments pay for debris removal for reopening roadways, equipment usage, overtime for emergency personnel and other storm-related costs. To receive funds in this category, at least $19 million in damage assessments are required statewide.

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FEMA will look for the $19 million statewide in debris removal for opening roadways and equipment and overtime for personnel, along with damage to roadways and bridges due to flooding, Steele said.

“Unfortunately, this situation in the public section, we’re not close to that number because Troup County was the most significantly impacted county in Georgia, although Baldwin County sustained a little bit of damage as well,” Steele said.

Jason Ritter, Area 4 Field Coordinator for GEMA, said the $19 million damage requirement is based on a per capita threshold.

”The 19 million is a statewide number. It’s $1.77 per capita for the state population,” Ritter said. “Even if the state makes $19 million, each county has a per capita as well of $4.44 per capita, so Troup County’s threshold individually will be $310,000. Surely, we meet that on the public assistance side.”

“But unless that $19 million is met throughout the entire state, then that does not qualify the county individually. Just so you know, we’re less than halfway there after an extensive search of all the counties in the state that received damage,” Ritter said.

Steele said residents can still potentially receive FEMA assistance because individual damage does not have to meet the $19 million threshold.

“In the individual assistance world, there is no threshold that GEMA or FEMA is looking for. They come in they conduct a preliminary damage assessment at the request [of the governor], but there is no specific threshold that they’re given us that we have to meet for the individual assistance for homeowners,” Steele said. “Basically, at that point, the request is in the hands of the federal government.

“FEMA makes their decisions based on several factors. What percentage was uninsured? What percentage were renters versus owners? GEMA doesn’t have any decision-making ability at that table. It’s all a FEMA decision,” Ritter said, saying GEMA just requests the damage assessment and push it up for a request for individual assistance. “At that point, the request is in the hands of the federal government.”

Steele said that the Small Business Administration (SBA) does have a damage threshold for individual and business recovery loans.

“They are looking for a certain amount, 40 percent of damage to uninsured properties and they need a minimum of 25 of those to be eligible. That’s the only threshold that we’re given and the SBA.

Steele said SBA can only assist on the individual side after FEMA makes a decision.