The governor has until Friday, Feb. 27, to make a formal request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement for costs Maine towns, schools and hospitals incurred during the Jan. 27 blizzard.

On Wednesday, Gov. Paul LePage issued a statement urging towns to get their estimates to their county emergency management agencies quickly so they can be forwarded to the Maine Emergency Management Agency in time to meet that deadline.

In Androscoggin County, which is one of four counties LePage declared blizzard disaster areas based on snowfall, with the estimated cost of $383,419 to clear away up to 30 inches of snow in parts of the county.

In order to qualify for FEMA storm relief, there has to be a record snowfall, according to Lynette Miller, director of special projects and public information coordinator for MEMA. During the Jan. 27 blizzard, record snowfall was recorded in Androscoggin, York, Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties. The record threshold is used as a measure, Miller explained, to set a standard for federal storm relief “based on the theory that states like Maine budget for snow, know what to do for snow, and normally snow is not an emergency.”

But, on Jan. 27, it became an emergency in the hardest hit Maine counties, and towns in those counties are eligible to ask for reimbursement for overtime, salt and sand and certain pieces of equipment based on the most extreme 48 hours of storm cleanup.

The record snowfall determination is made based on National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data.

Advertisement

Even if a county doesn’t receive a record snowfall, it may qualify for some assistance based on costs alone, Miller said, so MEMA has asked all Maine counties to tabulate their snow clearance costs. If those costs, along with the costs in the disaster counties, reaches $1.9 million, LePage will be able to ask FEMA for assistance.

And, if that assistance is approved, FEMA will reimburse 75 percent of the costs, the state will reimburse another 15 percent, and counties will be left with 10 percent.

In addition to towns, schools and hospitals may also request reimbursement for extreme costs due to snow removal.

For instance, according to Tim Bubier, deputy director of the Androscoggin County Emergency Management Agency, a hospital can request reimbursement for clearing snow from the entrance to its emergency departments, “but not necessarily for clearing all their parking lots.”

On Wednesday, directors of all county EMAs held their regularly scheduled monthly meeting and discussed applications for assistance.

Allyson Hill, director of the Oxford County EMA, said the threshold for Oxford County to be involved in the federal assistance program is $205,000, a number based on population, which is adjusted annually.

Advertisement

She received requests for assistance from Bethel, Oxford, Newry, South Paris, Greenwood and Waterford, estimated at $85,000.

“That’s more than $100,000 under our county’s threshold,” Hill said. “I think we lucked out compared to counties that are closer to the coast. I know the coast got hit a lot harder than we did in Oxford County.”

According to Miller, even though LePage has 30 days from the snow event to request assistance, MEMA has already requested a pre-review of costs from FEMA, and that pre-review is expected to begin this week.

During that review, MEMA will talk with towns that experienced high costs, will visit some damaged sites and will use that information to consider whether “the governor can realistically ask for assistance” from FEMA based on eligibility standards, Miller said.

Even though the paperwork will be done by the end of next week, it takes a long time for FEMA to approve requests and issue reimbursement, but Miller said “it provides a level of comfort for communities to know they have those dollars coming,”

She estimated it would take a couple of months to work through the process, perhaps even longer than it takes for the snow to melt.

Advertisement

In the meantime, some towns have already received help from the state for snow removal.

Eastport, which received what is being called an “unparalleled” 99 inches of snow in a 20-day span, got help from the Maine Department of Transportation to clear municipal roads.

And, Miller said the more recent storm, which had initially been forecast as a blizzard, is not likely to be measured as a record snow event, which means it won’t qualify as a snow disaster. Even though York and Washington counties “got hammered,” she said, the storm “was such a peculiar event” that it doesn’t meet the definition of disaster nor will it likely meet the threshold for costs.

Before Jan. 27, the most recent snow disaster was in February 2013 when LePage issued declarations for Androscoggin, Cumberland, York and Knox counties.

[email protected]

Staff Writer Matthew Daigle contributed to this report.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: