CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin received a split-decision from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in connection with the Jan. 9 chemical spill and water emergency that impacted approximately 300,000 residents in parts of nine counties.
FEMA on Thursday turned down Tomblin’s request for a major disaster declaration but approved reimbursement for some of what the state and counties spent on emergency response.
“Based on our review of all of the information available, the request does not meet the legal definition of a ‘major disaster,'” wrote FEMA administrator Craig Fugate.
FEMA did approve the governor’s earlier appeal for public assistance under an earlier emergency declaration.
“It’s going to provide reimbursement from FEMA for some of the costs that occurred between Jan. 9 and Jan. 20 by the state, by the local government agencies and some private non-profits that responded to the water crisis,” state Homeland Security official Jimmy Gianato told MetroNews.
He said the reimbursement rate from FEMA would be 75 percent of what was spent on the response.
“Basically what we did is apply under both avenues we had to obtain public assistance,” Gianato said.
A major disaster declaration would have made the state eligible for other programs like disaster unemployment and disaster food stamps.
Gianato said the chemical spill and water emergency were unique and not covered under the definition of a “major disaster.”
“It doesn’t really fall into the categories that FEMA would normally approve under a major disaster declaration,” he said.
The counties covered under the public assistance reimbursement are Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane.