FEMA denies federal aid to Southcentral Alaska homeowners, but the state money available

rshinohara@adn.comDecember 7, 2012 

— The federal government has turned down a state request for federal financial aid to individual homeowners in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Kenai Peninsula Borough to help pay for damages from devastating floods in September.

But the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency, which has a smaller state-funded grant program, is geared up and ready to begin cutting checks within a few days, division director John Madden said Friday.

The state was waiting for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to make a decision because a homeowner cannot receive both federal and state aid.

The federal government program is better, giving a maximum grant of $31,900 to individual homeowners, while the state gives up to half of that, $15,950.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency decided the individual flood damage was not "of the severity and magnitude" to qualify for FEMA money, said FEMA spokeswoman Luci Anne Phillips.

The state is prepared to step in quickly because it had already accepted applications from 417 households and begun reviewing them to make sure documentation on the extent of the damage, any insurance coverage and other information is in hand, Madden said.

The same applications that would have been used for federal aid can be used to get the state money, he said.

Madden didn't know the total amount the state will spend to aid homeowners. "It's as much as we need," he said.

Big rain and wind storms across Southcentral Alaska caused flooding around the Mat-Su Borough and on the Kenai Peninsula in September, and power outages across the region including Anchorage.

The preliminary damage assessment was that about 25 houses were destroyed, another 25 sustained major damage, 300 received minor damage and the rest were just affected by the storm somehow, Madden said.

To qualify for government aid, a house must be a person's primary residence and insurance money must be used first, he said.

While FEMA isn't helping individuals, it will go in with the state on a joint program to pay for repairs to infrastructure such as roads, bridges, utilities and railroads, said Sam Hutchinson, a spokesman for the state Division of Homeland Security.

The state is also exploring the possibility of getting money from the federal Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hutchinson said.

Reach Rosemary Shinohara at rshinohara@adn.com or 257-4340.

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