Looking for a helping hand

Published 9:18 am Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Charlotte County experienced a great deal this fall in terms of severe inclement weather and the devastating consequences it can have, between the impact of Hurricane Florence in September and Tropical Storm Michael in October.

Area and state officials have been hard at work on the repair and restoration process, but in particularly trying times, some federal assistance can be a great help. Consequently, it was disappointing to read the recent press release that we reported from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), which cited that Charlotte County was one of six localities denied Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) public assistance following Hurricane Florence.

Thirty-eight localities applied for public assistance funding to aid with damages and expenditures due to Florence, according to the release, but Charlotte, Accomack, Powhatan, Surry and York counties, plus the City of Portsmouth, were denied.

The release cited unmet eligibility requirements as the reason for denial in Charlotte County.

Elaborating on that, officials in the release noted that State Police and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) submitted initial damage assessments. After inspecting damages reported by VDOT to roads and bridges, the costs came in lower than initially estimated, dropping the jurisdiction below its per capita eligibility requirement.

The release said damages must exceed $1.50 per Virginia citizen and also $3.78 per county citizen if the county is going to be eligible for reimbursement.

While falling short of this requirement is discouraging news, there is also reason to maintain hope when it comes to receiving federal aid moving forward.

VDEM State Coordinator Jeff Stern said in the release that “while it is disappointing that these six localities are ineligible for this federal aid, VDEM and other state agency partners will continue working closely with these localities to support the recovery process from this storm. We will work with the localities to determine if any additional costs have been overlooked that may make us eligible to appeal the decision to FEMA.”

Additionally, Commonwealth Regional Council Deputy Director Todd Fortune has previously said that the state was preparing to submit a request to FEMA in the form of a federal disaster declaration — which would include Charlotte County — for damages sustained during Michael.

He said Charlotte County met the threshold to be included but that it would be about a month on the timeline before an answer would be received to move the process forward.

“The regional staff from the (VDEM) gave us an update recently,” said Fortune previously. “They advised that the Presidential Disaster Declaration request for Tropical Storm Michael is expected to go to the president in December.”

He said the last date proposed was Dec. 11.

Hopefully we’ll find out any day now.

Fortune added that the VDEM’s regional staff further advised that Charlotte County exceeded its threshold for damages to qualify for a disaster declaration.

We join with the county in hoping that its situation will be recognized at the federal level and that a helping hand will be extended to bring it back to its feet.