Federal officials were expected to meet late last week with Claiborne officials about possibly doling out some Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to offset the costs of clearing away recent storm debris.
David Breeding, executive director of the Claiborne Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security, gathered together representatives from the cities and county government, along with members of Claiborne E-911, the county ambulance service and the sheriff’s office, to insure everyone would be “on the same page.”
In 2013, President Barack Obama signed into law a new set of guidelines to address catastrophic damages like the ones experienced from Hurricane Sandy, said Breeding.
Those guidelines have recently changed. One of two major changes allows cities and counties to be reimbursed for any “straight time” a volunteer might rack up while working to clear away debris after a storm.
“Used to, you could only count overtime,” said Breeding.
The second change involves the creation of a sliding scale reimbursement plan.
“This change increases the amount of money they’re going to give us. These little storms we’ve had the last little bit, where we had to go out and cut trees and clear roads – that’s going to count,” he said.
When you think of debris removal, Breeding said, it includes removing snow, putting out salt for ice and clearing roads.
The new sliding scale shows a marked increase in the percentage in dollars FEMA will reimburse for debris removal. The biggest payout occurs during the first 30 days of the incident period. The federal cost share for that period is 85 percent. Between days 31 to 90, the federal government will share 80 percent of the costs of debris removal.
From day 91 to day 180, FEMA will share 75 percent of the costs.
Cumberland Gap Mayor Bill McGaffee asked whether the county could be reimbursed for work done by the Claiborne Jail inmates during the recent heavy storms that whipped through the town.
Breeding said the inmate labor could not be counted. However, any incidentals like food and transportation or any equipment used during the cleanup would fall under the guidelines for reimbursement, he said.
“One thing I want to caution you on is, to make sure you get good documentation. And, you need to use approximate amounts like estimating how many cubic feet of debris you actually removed.
“If you remember from the tornadoes, you piled all that stuff up and they came and looked at the pile. Well, if you’re talking about a year at a time – that’s not going to be feasible for us to do. The best thing would be to take pictures of it,” said Breeding.
The documentation should include the amount of debris cleared, how that debris was removed and the estimated costs of doing so, he said.
The new pilot program guidelines are retroactive and will allow the local governments and emergency responders to claim reimbursements for any storm debris removal dating from June 28, 2013 through June 27 of this year.
Breeding said the program has been extended for another year.
The guidelines can be used only for those storms officially declared by FEMA, he said.
Jan Runions may be reached at 423-626-3222. Follow the Claiborne Progress on Twitter @ClaibProgressTN.