Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Congressman Delaney Addresses Western Maryland Flooding

The following is a letter from Congressman John Delaney to Maryland Voters.  It has been re-published here with his staff's permission. Many thanks to Congressman Delaney for working to help flood victims in Washington and Allegany counties.

On June 12, 2014, heavy rain in Western Maryland produced severe flooding in Washington and Allegany County. Many residents saw their homes damaged or destroyed, businesses were flooded, and millions of dollars in damages were incurred. The damage was especially severe in Cresaptown, Bowling Green, and Clear Spring, where the flooding reached historic levels. Unfortunately, the State of Maryland has decided not to apply for federal disaster relief. Last week, I wrote to Governor O`Malley urging him to reconsider. After more than a month of displacement and loss, our flood victims deserve assistance.

In the storm’s aftermath, I was proud to see our communities show incredible strength and compassion, as area churches, neighboring communities and the Red Cross worked together to shelter and feed those victims who lost their homes. Neighbors donated to neighbors, friends and families came together, and hundreds of people came forward and asked “how can I help?” As the rebuild continues, I’m going to fight for federal assistance for Allegany and Washington County.

As your Member of Congress, I’ve urged Maryland’s state government to submit a formal request for federal assistance. State action is required as the first step for Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) aid to be delivered. Altogether, affected communities sustained $3.6 million dollars in losses and over 200 buildings were damaged.

When the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) originally assessed whether flooded areas qualified for aid, the state agency estimated that flooding in Western Maryland did not meet federal standards. However, while the raw totals for damaged buildings fall short of federal standards for assistance, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) can also consider the economic hardship of the communities affected, the number of flood victims without insurance, the concentration of the damages, and the depth of local resources. My letter to the state called attention to these factors, which I believe greatly increase our odds of securing assistance.

Although the Administration has missed the date to submit a request, it may still be possible to receive an extension to apply for assistance. In my letter to Governor O’Malley, I requested that MEMA file an extension for federal aid and offered whatever support my office can provide. I also believe that the FEMA standards need to be revised, because clearly they are not accurate when it comes to assessing disasters in environments like Western Maryland. Local families and businesses have suffered devastating losses as a result of the recent flood, and as elected officials we must remain committed to helping affected areas make a full recovery.

While I am concerned that Maryland’s state government never submitted a formal request for FEMA’s assistance, I was happy to see the Administration request relief through disaster loan programs administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA). On July 25, 2014, Governor O’Malley wrote a letter to the SBA asking that the agency issue a disaster declaration to make low-interest loans available to impacted residents and businesses. With so many families and business owners still struggling to rebuild, we have a responsibility to explore every avenue to recovery, and I was pleased to see the Administration do their part advocating for affected communities.

As our district works to repair damaged areas and move displaced families back into their homes, I will continue to act as a voice for those flood victims who have not received the help they deserve. If you or a friend of family member was impacted by the June floods, please contact my office.