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FEMA declaration, federal aid not coming in response to July 29 flooding

MORGANTOWN — The July 29 flooding that resulted in millions in damages to private and public property will not receive the necessary declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to trigger federal disaster relief funds.

Jim Smith, who heads MECCA 911 and the county’s office of emergency management confirmed as much Monday.

“We did not get approved for the FEMA declaration,” he said. “What occurred is several of the larger claims ended up being covered by insurance. Then you had some claims that did not fall within the FEMA guidelines to be eligible.”

In August, Smith turned more than $6 million worth of claims — 307 individual damage reports and 33 public damage reports — over for consideration.

In order to qualify, at least $2.9 million in damages needed to be identified.

Smith said once the insurance coverage and ineligible claims were removed, damage totals fell short of that threshold.

West Virginia University was among the public entities to have damage assessments included in the county’s filing for FEMA consideration.

April Kaull, executive director of communications for WVU, said the damages sustained by university property during the July 29 flooding event now stand at more than $5.6 million.

“WVU carries property insurance coverage through the West Virginia Board of Risk and Insurance Management (BRIM). A claim has been submitted, and WVU is working with BRIM to investigate and discern the loss costs that are eligible for coverage under our policy,” she said.

While disaster aid in the form of FEMA grants are not forthcoming, Smith said a declaration is currently before Gov. Jim Justice that would mobilize the U.S. Small Business Administration.

According to the SBA website, individuals can be eligible for low-interest disaster recovery loans through the SBA for damaged and destroyed assets in a declared disaster.

Interest rates on SBA disaster relief loans are fixed for the term of the loan and depend on whether the individual has other means available to provide for their own disaster recovery. Applicants must have a credit history acceptable to the SBA and must show the ability to repay all loans.

Currently, interest rates on SBA disaster relief loans vary from approximately 3% to 7%. The maximum life of loan is 30 years, again, dependent on the applicant’s available resources.

“Once the governor signs the declaration, that will be sent to the SBA and the SBA will contact us and let us know what dates they’ll be here,” Smith said. “Then we reach out through the media to let folks know the dates, times and locations for any individuals wanting to fill out those loan applications.”

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