Town probably ineligible for flood assistance
by Jazz Clark
An assessment by West Virginia Homeland Security determined last week that homes and businesses damaged by the September 1 flood likely won’t get federal assistance.
Damage assessment was conducted on Wednesday, September 5. The state officials were aided by County Emergency Services director Dave Michael.
Michael reported the results at the September 6 meeting of the Morgan County Commissioners.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines have strict rules for monetary assistance to flood-affected communities.
For business assistance, 25 or more businesses need to sustain major damage, which is considered over 40% of their net market value. The buildings must also be uninsured to count towards the total.
For residences, 100 homes also need to be damaged significantly for a federal declaration through FEMA.
When looking at damage, only the structure counts towards damage, not goods or belongings.
Damages totaling $2,000,000 of state property or $59,325 of county property ($3.39 per resident) are required before any federal aid kicks in.
Michael reported that 48 sites were physically assessed, including 28 businesses and 14 residences.
Only 11 of the sites had flood insurance: six businesses, four single-family homes and one mobile home.
“While we were walking around, one business owner advised us that they couldn’t afford flood insurance, because the yearly premiums are $2,500 and come with a $10,000 deductible,” said Michael.
None were classified “destroyed” and over half were simply affected by moisture.
Sites will continue to be checked out as damages are called in to County Planner Alma Gorse.
“I’m sure at some point we’ll have to close the door, but for now we’ll keep taking information,”
Gorse said. “Currently we don’t have a deadline, but info should be gotten in as soon as possible.”
Others were more optimistic about finding assistance.
“I think it’s clear that we’re not going to get the declaration we need, but that doesn’t mean the state can’t give help to the local government for needs they might have,” said Delegate Daryl Cowles.
Cowles mentioned the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which is sometimes tapped in flood situations.
Usually the fund is used for a larger footprint disaster, but he thought the town could make a case.
“It was a tough event, yet limited in scope to downtown on our little Warm Springs Run watershed,” Cowles said. “But, I’d like to think there’s some help available once we show how vital tourism is to our town.”
The flood was a blow to businesses on a big holiday weekend, and tourism was struggling even before the disaster, he said.
To reduce future flooding, Michael would like to check with the Soil Conservation Service for a grant to remove silt from streambeds.