INDIANAPOLIS — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied Indiana’s request for a major disaster declaration in Howard County, according to a press release issued Wednesday from John Erickson, senior public information officer for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.
Gov. Mike Pence is very concerned about Hoosiers during this holiday season who suffered loss of property and need support to rebuild their lives, stated the release.
“Hoosiers who were affected by the storms of Nov. 17 deserve relief, and I have directed the Indiana Department of Homeland Security to prepare and submit an immediate appeal to this initial denial,” Gov. Pence said.
As part of Indiana’s appeal, IDHS will request joint preliminary damage assessments for other severely affected counties. The assessments will be conducted by FEMA, IDHS and county emergency management agencies.
The request was made Dec. 4 for individual assistance, which would have included grants and low-interest loans for citizens and low-interest loans for businesses in Howard County devastated by tornadoes and severe storms that affected parts of Indiana Nov. 17.
Howard County damage documentation included: 191 homes have sustained major damage or have been destroyed. In all, nearly 1,000 homes have sustained damage. Indiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster estimates more than $2.84 million will be needed for unmet needs in Howard County alone after a Presidential Major Disaster for individual assistance is declared.
Sen. Dan Coats shared Gov. Pence’s consternation.
“I am disappointed the administration denied Governor Pence’s request for federal assistance to help Hoosiers recover from the severe tornadoes that struck Howard County in November,” said Coats. “I will continue to work with Governor Pence to ensure Hoosiers receive the help they need to rebuild.”
Erickson said the last two times the state applied for federal funding from FEMA it was denied and was shot down in the appeal process.
“FEMA said the severity and magnitude of the damage was not great enough for federal assistance to be granted,” he said. “Under FEMA guidelines, there has to be a concentration of damage that exhausts the resources at both the county and state levels.”
Erickson said he was “concerned” with FEMA’s decision, adding that the state was denied federal disaster funding twice under former Gov. Mitch Daniels.
“I’m obviously disappointed,” he said. “For any person who had their house either damaged or destroyed, it felt like a disaster.”