#COflood relief money headed to where it is needed?

Flooding St. Vrain River September, 2013 via Voice of America
Flooding St. Vrain River September, 2013 via Voice of America

From the Longmont Times-Call (Scott Rochat):

So far, FEMA has obligated $3.4 million of flood money to rebuild Longmont. So far, Longmont has seen $143,000. Why? Because when you try to do that much with a handful of state officials, it only goes so far.

“In September, before the flood, we had three finance people,” said Micki Trost, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “We staffed for our normal operations, our steady-state operations. We would not (normally) have the amount of requests coming through our finance office that we had following the flood.”

That’s changing. Not only has the division ramped up to six finance people and borrowed another three from its grant department, but last week, the state contracted with Deloitte — one of the “Big Four” accounting and audit firms — to provide another six. On Thursday, Longmont emergency manager Dan Eamon had his first meeting with a Deloitte representative. Eamon said he hoped that things were looking up from here.

“The biggest thing is that the state wasn’t ready for a $1 billion disaster,” he said. “It’s larger than we’ve ever experienced. … We’re all learning as we go.”

Why is Denver involved at all? Because of the way reimbursement works through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It goes roughly like this:

• Cities and counties submit estimates for work that they consider to be FEMA-eligible. This gets a quick sign-off from the state.

• FEMA considers the request and decides how much to obligate. If an estimate is deemed to be eligible, FEMA can reimburse up to 75 percent of the project’s expense.

• At that point, the city or county has to submit a different set of paperwork to the state on the actual costs as the work gets done. This is reimbursement money, not an up-front grant, so the state has to verify that the work was done, who did it, and several other details before the money can be released.

So it’s FEMA’s dollars — but it’s the state who has to oversee and verify. And until recently, there just weren’t enough people to do that, Trost said.

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