FEMA teaches Grants 101

Published 12:42 am Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kathleen Murray, a FEMA public-assistance coordinator, explains the public-assistance grant program to local government officials and others Tuesday. (WDN Photo/Mike Voss)

Local officials learn the ins and outs of hurricane recovery funding

Local government officials and others were given a refresher course Tuesday on what they need to do to be reimbursed for eligible expenditures related to Hurricane Irene.

Kathleen Murray, a public-assistance coordinator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s regional office in Atlanta, explained the public-assistance grant process to Beaufort County officials, representatives of several of the county’s municipalities and others who attended a meeting at Washington’s Municipal Building. Local governments are entitled to grants to help pay for eligible disaster-recovery expenses. Those grants are funded by the federal government (75 percent) and state government (25 percent).

“The purpose of this meeting is for us to see each other, for us to start working and for you to meet your project officers,” Murray said.

The county, its municipalities and others will be working closely with those project officers to determine what expenditures are reimbursable and ensuring that grant conditions are met before reimbursement applications are filed so the reimbursement process is not delayed, she said.

City Manager Josh Kay said the meeting would help the city prepare its applications for reimbursement. How much that total reimbursement was unknown Tuesday.

“That figure is still developing. We are still picking up storm debris. We are still doing some electrical work, cleaning up the debris that was left, that our contractors left, cutting on services,” Kay said. “Planning and inspections are still working with businesses and homes. So, our number continues to grow.”

In the days before Hurricane Irene struck, the city set up special accounts for storm-related expenses.

“We’re continuing to keep an accurate track of those dollars,” Kay said. “The special accounting was set up so we could track it from point A to point B.”

Murray said she expects the majority of storm-related expenses to be related to debris removal.

“Everybody has that. Everybody has debris removal from the storm. … Statewide, it’s where we spend most of our money,” she said.

In addition to debris removal, local governments and agencies like the Washington Housing Authority may be eligible for reimbursements related to public-safety (police, fire and rescue) measures, buildings and equipment damaged by the storm, utilities affected by the storm, parks and recreation facilities and equipment damaged by the storm.

“The things that are eligible for all of these categories are labor, equipment, materials, rented equipment and contracts,” Murray explained. “The things that make these categories different are labor, whether its overtime or regular time.”

FEMA mitigation specialists also will be making rounds, Murray said.

“If there’s something that we can do to lessen future damages for the next event, whether it’s a wind event or flood event, we want to try to help you with the funding part,” she said. “So, if you have building damage, the hazard-mitigation guys will come and look to see what types of things you may be eligible for under the hazard-mitigation program.”

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike