More than seven months after winter storms ravaged Central Oregon, Deschutes County’s public organizations finally have a path toward getting their damages reimbursed by the federal government.
On Tuesday, representatives from public agencies and private nonprofits in Deschutes County attended a meeting hosted by Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management. The meeting, held at the Deschutes County 911 office, was scheduled to lay out the path to funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Deschutes County became eligible for that assistance three weeks ago.
Private homes and businesses aren’t eligible for the funds, which target damage to public infrastructure, ranging from a broken waterline to a collapsed roof over a public school building.
“Our folks are ready to sit down with the applicants and get that money obligated to the state,” said Cam Rossie, spokeswoman for the federal agency.
The money in question has taken a long time to come to fruition. From Jan. 7 through Jan. 10, Oregon was battered by a series of winter storms, which shattered the snow accumulation total for Jan. 10 in Bend and caused a number of roof collapses in Central Oregon, including the gym roof at Highland Magnet at Kenwood School in Bend.
On March 9, the Office of Emergency Management asked for federal funding to help counties battered by the storm, according to Julie Slevin, state public assistance officer for the Office of Emergency Management. That request was initially rejected by FEMA in May, and appealed on June 9, according to Slevin.
On Aug. 8, the federal agency reversed its decision and declared the storm a disaster in Oregon. However, the declaration only included four counties — Columbia, Deschutes, Josephine and Hood River — and only includes damage from storms that occurred between Jan. 7 and Jan 10, according to Slevin.
“What we assume happened is that (FEMA) broke it out by storm system,” she said.
Slevin added that FEMA will provide matching funds for 75 percent of the damage incurred from severe winter storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides from that period. Eligible organizations include federal, state, local and tribal governments, as well as private nonprofits that meet certain criteria.
Damage to any public facilities — buildings or pieces of equipment owned by eligible applicants — falls under the agency’s purview, though private nonprofits have to apply for a disaster loan from the Small Business Administration for certain types of buildings, according to Slevin. She added that work can range from debris removal to a full rebuild of the destroyed portion of the building.
While the state Office of Emergency Management won’t know the scope of the project until interested public agencies complete forms requesting public assistance, the office’s initial assessment put the damage in the four counties at around $4.1 million, with $2.66 million incurred by organizations in Deschutes County, from Bend-La Pine Schools to the city of Redmond.
Once those organizations fill out a request, they’ll meet with a FEMA representative, who determines if the claim has merit. The deadline to request public assistance is Sept. 20, 2017.
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