Dayton-area tornadoes: Federal disaster money not coming soon but process started

Residents may be storm-and-clean-up weary but federal disaster assistance isn’t expected to start flowing for a while.

State and federal emergency management officials will assess tornado damage in 10 Ohio counties on Wednesday and Thursday, the first step toward unlocking FEMA money for Miami Valley residents and businesses hit by the Memorial Day tornadoes, according to Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration.

The FEMA assessment will determine how many structures sustained damage and calculate how much federal aid Ohio could be eligible to receive, said Dan Tierney, press secretary for DeWine. Teams examine losses to households, businesses, public infrastructure, government services and the impact to the community.

Teams will assess damages in Montgomery, Miami, Greene, Mercer, Auglaize, Darke counties as well as Hocking, Pickaway, Perry and Muskingum counties, Tierney said.

When would the federal government get involved?

If the losses are beyond what state and local government can handle, the state can submit a formal disaster declaration request to the FEMA regional office, which kicks it to the headquarters, which then refers the request to President Donald Trump, according to FEMA.

At his sole discretion, the president may issue a major disaster declaration for public assistance to help public and some non-profit entities cover emergency services and infrastructure repairs and for individual assistance to help individuals, households and businesses. The president also has the power to unleash funding for “hazard mitigation” to reduce the chances of future damages.

Examples of individual assistance include crisis counseling, disaster case management, unemployment assistance, legal services and food stamps. Examples of public assistance include debris removal and repairs to bridges, roads, water control equipment, buildings, utilities and parks.

Related: DeWine briefs Trump, declares state of emergency

“My administration fully supports the people of the great state of Ohio as they begin the cleanup and recovery,” President Trump said on Twitter last week. He also called DeWine and Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald to express support for clean up efforts.

Immediately after the tornadoes whipped through Celina to Beavercreek, local governments asked county Emergency Management Agencies for help, which then asked Ohio EMA for help.

Tierney said the FEMA preliminary damage assessment report is expected back to the state by the middle of next week.

Where is the National Guard?

While the National Guard wasn’t activated, Tierney noted that Ohio deployed state resources right away: Ohio Department of Transportation used snow plows and other trucks to clear roadways, the State Highway Patrol sent its helicopters and drones up to assess damage and the state Department of Health has provided support for issues such as replacing birth certificates and giving free Hepatitis A vaccinations to those impacted by the storms.


FEMA Disaster Declaration Process

1. Immediately after disaster strikes, local government, emergency services, non-profits and businesses work to protect health and safety. Local emergency managers assess damages and request help from state emergency managers.

2. The governor may declare a state of emergency, as Mike DeWine did, to send additional resources to communities.

3. The state can ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency to conduct a joint preliminary damage assessment. This will be done this week in 10 Ohio counties.

4. The damage assessment report is given to the state.

5. If the losses are beyond local and state capabilities, the state can submit a formal disaster declaration request to the FEMA regional office, which sends it to headquarters, which then refers the request to the president.

6. The president may issue a major disaster declaration for public assistance, individual assistance and/or hazard mitigation.

Source: FEMA

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