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8/20/2014 11:36:00 PM
Federal disaster aid approved, but individual assistance denied
Lake Chelan Mirror Staff

Following recent devastating wildfires across the state of Washington, residents had hoped they might receive federal aid, but they were denied such assistance, at least initially.
While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency did make federal disaster aid available to state, tribal and eligible local governments, what has drawn greater attention from those in the state of Washington is the denial of Gov. Jay Inslee's request for Individual Assistance.
"While we appreciate the President's decision to provide federal Public Assistance for the Colville Tribes and communities in Okanogan County, we are extremely disappointed that the Administration has denied desperately-needed Individual Assistance for hundreds of Washington families whose homes and lives have been devastated by these wildfires," U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell said in a dual statement.
Gov. Inslee has already issued an appeal of the decision.
"I fully support Governor Inslee's decision to appeal this ruling from the federal government," U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Auburn) said. "Not only is this one of the worst wildfire seasons Washington has seen in many, many years, but we have seen individuals and families lose absolutely everything. The state is doing what it can to help provide assistance but they can't do it alone. I am working with my colleagues, FEMA and the Governor's office to get the federal help we need to ensure people can access basic necessities and provide for themselves and their families as they rebuild their lives. I urge the federal government to address these needs and seriously consider the Governor's appeal."
Public Assistance for Chelan County was also denied. Federal funding is available to state, tribal and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by wildfire in Okanogan County and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation during the time period of July 9 to Aug. 5.
Wildfires have destroyed more than 300 homes across four different counties and have had an impact on local economies, including the loss of private property. An estimated 316 homes were lost in the Carlton Complex Fire alone.
"It's disappointing," Brewster Mayor Lee Webster said of the denial of Individual Assistance. "The federal government has a greater responsibility here than that, as well as the state government. With as much money that is being sent out to other nations, it's reprehensible that we can't get more help here at home."
Michael J. Hall has been named the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. Hall said that damage surveys are continuing in other areas, and additional counties may be designated for assistance after the assessments are fully completed.
If aid is deemed needed and warranted under President Obama's disaster declaration issued for the state of Washington, then state, tribal and eligible local governments can receive:
Payment of at least 75 percent of the eligible costs for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, taken to save lives and protect property and public health. Emergency protective measures assistance is available to state, tribal and eligible local governments on a cost-sharing basis.
Payment of at least 75 percent of the eligible costs for repairing or replacing damaged public facilities, such as roads, bridges, utilities, buildings, schools, recreational areas and similar publicly owned property, as well as certain private non-profit organizations engaged in community service activities.
Payment of at least 75 percent of the approved costs for hazard mitigation projects undertaken by state, tribal and local governments to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural or technological disasters.

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