Collins, King, Poliquin Urge FEMA to Reconsider Denial of Disaster Assistance for Washington County Related to January Snowstorm
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, and Congressman Bruce Poliquin, today announced that they have sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urging the agency to reconsider its denial of disaster assistance for Washington County in the wake of a January snowstorm that brought record snowfall in a short period of time. FEMA has previously approved such assistance for Cumberland, York, Androscoggin, and Sagadahoc counties.
“Washington County experienced the same blizzard-like conditions that struck much of northern New England, and other counties in Maine, from January 26-28,” said Senators Collins, King, and Congressman Poliquin in their letter. “The January blizzard, coupled with record cold temperatures, served to increase hardships experienced by Washington County, and any decision regarding disaster relief must take these incredibly important factors into account. Simply put, the people of Washington County need this assistance.”
In April, Senators Collins, King, and Congressman Poliquin sent a letter to FEMA in support of the state’s request that Washington County be added to the disaster declaration that included Cumberland, York, and Androscoggin counties. Though disaster assistance for Sagadahoc was eventually approved, FEMA denied assistance for Washington County on April 30th. The state has since appealed that denial, and Senators Collins, King, and Congressman Poliquin have urged FEMA to strongly review the state’s appeal in this most recent letter.
The severity of the winter storm, which struck Washington County and other areas around the state from January 26-28, presented a significant burden to the people of Washington County. Critical transportation routes and services were temporarily closed, hospital staff members were unable to report to work, and public schools, universities, and local businesses were also forced to close temporarily.
As Senators Collins, King, and Congressman Poliquin highlighted in their letter announced today, a joint Federal State and Local Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) conducted in early April found that Washington County suffered sufficient financial damage to warrant being added to the disaster declaration.
Full text of the letter below:
June 11, 2015
The Honorable William C. Fugate
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20472
Dear Administrator Fugate:
We write to urge you to carefully consider the State of Maine’s appeal to the April 30, 2015 disaster declaration denial by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This year, Washington County, Maine, suffered record snow fall similar to Cumberland, York, Androscoggin and Sagadahoc counties. Unlike these counties, however, Washington County’s application for relief was denied.
Washington County experienced the same blizzard-like conditions that struck much of northern New England, and other counties in Maine, from January 26-28, 2015. In fact, a joint Federal, State and Local Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) conducted in early April determined that sufficient financial damage existed to warrant adding Washington County to the existing disaster declaration. This PDA included the Passamaquoddy Tribal Lands and Indian Township and Pleasant Point reservations. The PDA also concluded that Washington County is eligible for Snow Assistance due to documented near-record snowfall. Eastport received 25.7 inches during the incident period, which is within 89 percent of the historic three-day record for Eastport. Your offices have received an appeal letter and supporting documentation from Bruce Fitzgerald, Governor LePage’s Authorized Representative, with details from the PDA, and we hope you will also carefully review this request.
The severity of this storm, which brought record snowfall amounts in a short time period, presented a substantial burden throughout Washington County, temporarily closing critical transportation routes and services. It also prevented hospital staff from reporting to work and forced the closure of critical community offices, including public schools, universities, and local businesses. The State of Maine recently learned of exceptions to the “percent of record” determination under DAP 9523.1. Specifically, New Haven and Tolland counties in Connecticut were awarded disaster assistance after receiving 88 percent and 88.5 percent of record snowfall requirements. Clearly, some latitude exists as your agency considers disaster declarations, and we believe this is a basis for reconsideration of Washington County’s request.
The impact on Washington County was also dramatic as it is the second- poorest county in Maine with an unemployment rate nearly double the state average. It is also one of the most economically challenged rural counties in New England. Given the unique circumstances of this blizzard, the per capita damages identified in the PDA, and the distinct socio-economic challenges facing the county, we ask that you add these factors to your review of the declaration. The January blizzard, coupled with record cold temperatures, served to increase hardships experienced by Washington County, and any decision regarding disaster relief must take these incredibly important factors into account. Simply put, the people of Washington County need this assistance.
Therefore, in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations, we respectfully request that you give this matter your full consideration. In particular, please consider the apparent disparate treatment among states in New England that have faced similar challenges.