FEMA rejects request for aid for January storm, but Elkhart County officials say they'll manage
ELKHART — Elkhart and Elkhart County government officials say they'll manage to cover the extra costs related to dealing with the nasty winter that left the area under a perpetual blanket of snow.
Still, at least a sliver of hope remains that some federal assistance may be in the offing. Though the Federal Emergency Management Agency rejected Indiana's request for grant funds to cover the costs of dealing with the Jan. 5-9 storm that hit much of the state, Indiana Department of Homeland Security officials are going to ask again for funding.
The DHS applied in March to FEMA for grant funds to help government and other nonprofit entities in 49 counties, including Elkhart County. The DHS said Wednesday, April 2, that FEMA had denied Indiana's request, but it plans to appeal the decision.
DHS spokesman John Erickson said Thursday that in appealing, the state agency would try to fold in costs in its new request incurred by other counties beyond the 49 in the original application. It will also seek to include new costs from the original 49 counties that weren't included in the original application.
Per FEMA rules, grant funding would be available if the qualified expenses collectively submitted by Indiana surpass $9 million. The original application included $14.5 million in costs, but FEMA determined that much of that didn't fit within the agency guidelines, according to Erickson.
Officials in Elkhart County took the news of FEMA's rejection in stride.
"We always prepare as if we aren't going to get (aid)," said Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder.
The Elkhart County Highway Department has incurred around $90,000 in extra overtime costs dealing with snowy weather this year — the Jan. 5-9 storm and other events. Absent federal aid, an extra appropriation will be sought to cover the cost.
The Elkhart City Street Department has already depleted its $130,000 overtime budget for 2014 due to extra work required to plow snow. It, too, will need additional funds to cover excess costs, though city officials haven't yet pinpointed the figure, according to Arvis Dawson, assistant to Mayor Dick Moore.
Dawson said federal funding would be nice to help cover extra costs, but the city should be able to manage if it isn't forthcoming.
It's been a record-breaking winter here in Elkhart County in many respects. The early January storm was, perhaps, the single hardest-hitting weather event here, dumping more than a foot of white stuff in parts of Elkhart County.