As of Friday, June 19, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has obligated more than $129.5 million to the state of Arkansas for eligible public assistance projects. This funding addresses damage, losses and emergency protective costs associated with the late January 2009 ice storm. Obligated FEMA funds will cover 75 percent of an eligible project's cost. In Arkansas, the state contributes 12.5 percent with the applicant covering the remaining 12.5 percent. Once FEMA forwards funds to the state of Arkansas, further management of the funds, including disbursement to the applicants, is the responsibility of the state.
In Fulton County, FEMA has obligated $1,969,759. "The reimbursements are coming at a really good time," said County Judge Charles Willett. "We're still working three disasters at one time. We're trying to finish up repairs from the flood of 2008. We still have some bridges to get replaced, where we can get signed off on that, and we have 12.5 percent of that coming back to us which is over $400,000 once we get finished and signed off on it. We had the May 8 disaster this year, with the flooding in the western part of the county, so this money is coming in at a good time. A small county like us, with our budget, it's really been tight."
The North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, or NAEC, is also the beneficiary of FEMA funds to help with repairs and clean-up from the January ice storm. "We are extremely pleased to be in receipt of these funds from FEMA, and thank our congressional delegation for all of their assistance," said Mel Coleman, CEO of NAEC. The revised estimate of total ice storm damages for North Arkansas Electric Cooperative is approaching $37 million dollars, with our share possibly in the $8 million range. To date we have received approximately $12 million from FEMA and the State of Arkansas. We expect that the remainder of the funds will be sent to us in several allocations over the rest of the year and possibly into 2010."
Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln issued a statement in support of the release of the funding. "January's ice storm caused significant damage to the northern half of our state," Lincoln said. "In the days after the storm, our first responders and community members answered the call by assisting in the recovery response. I am pleased that the federal government is doing its part to help with recovery efforts in Northeast Arkansas."
Fulton County road crews are still busy cleaning up debris from the ice storm. According to Judge Willett, two-thirds of county roads have been cleared to this point. With the receipt of these funds from FEMA, the county can get more people out working to finish up the remaining roads. "Having only just now received our money for all the work that's already been done, it's slowed us down a bit. We had to lay off half the people who were helping us. Now we can get them back on board. We appreciate everybody's patience. It's hard to blade the roads when you have so much brush in the roads and ditches. We've had a lot of people who've worked really hard for us and we appreciate their efforts," said Willett.
The deadline for submitting reports to FEMA for reimbursement is Aug. 6, but Judge Willett said that the county will be filing for an extension. "We have April and May reports turned in and are waiting to be reimbursed on them. Supposedly now, the state can reimburse the checks without having to go through Washington, so that will be another $700,000 dollars or so coming to us," said Willett.