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Chances of FEMA disaster declaration over Spokane County wildfires ‘probably slim’ |  Washington

(The Center Square) – It appears Spokane County will not receive as much federal aid as expected when it comes to the recent area. forest fires.

“We have carried out some damage assessments for the public assistance program, which has everything to do with infrastructure,” Stacey McClain, deputy director of operations for the Washington State Division of Emergency Management, said at the Spokane County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday morning . “Fortunately and unfortunately, there is not enough damage to meet the threshold set by our state.”

McClain went on to note that Spokane and Whitman counties have met their individual thresholds for requesting disaster relief under federal emergency management, but the state as a whole has not .

“We have to meet a state threshold of about $13 million to be able to apply for a public assistance program,” he said. “We are well below that threshold, so we will not submit to FEMA for a public assistance disaster. “

The public aid portion of federal funds is for infrastructure such as roads, bridges and electricity. FEMA is proposing a ‘individual assistance“Funding avenue the county could take advantage of to help individuals and families who have suffered losses due to the fires.

Challenges also remain on the front.

“The big part we’re trying to figure out is the insurance issue,” McClain said, emphasizing that FEMA will only disburse funds to cover uninsured homes.

Currently, 40 known households are uninsured and may qualify for coverage under FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program. There are some 200 homes for which the county does not have insurance data.

“If we were to submit our application today, with only 40 units, we would not be approved,” McClain said. “For us to be an area where FEMA can look at the situation, we need about 170 to 200 homes, uninsured, that are severely damaged or destroyed.”

He summed up the situation: “The chances of us getting a (FEMA declaration) are probably slim. »

Spokane County has 30 days from the end of the wildfires to request a disaster declaration from FEMA. That date was approaching, but on Monday evening, FEMA approved a 30-day extension for the filing.

Local authorities now have until October 21 to gather relevant data and advocate for a disaster declaration for individual assistance.

In the meantime, those responsible are looking for funding elsewhere.

An application has been submitted to the state Department of Commerce for its Emergency Rapid Response Pilot Program, requesting $2.5 million for debris management and cleanup efforts.

Loans from the federal Small Business Administration are also a possibility, but this option will not be explored until all possible avenues for funding from FEMA have been explored.

Governor Jay Inslee emergency declaration last month, $1.25 million was made available to Spokane County.