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Local, State, Federal Officials Begin First Stage of Disaster Assistance Program

Storm surges, heavy wind, downed trees, and extended power outages have hit many Rhode Island communities hard. Normally paved roads are covered with almost a foot of sand. The landscape of popular beaches does not look the same. Pieces of homes have been torn off and strewn about typically quiet neighborhoods.

Today, the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) reports that 10 teams comprised of state and federal officials will visit communities to continue the preliminary disaster assessment (PDA) process. Teams will be describing and documenting storm damage to roads, buildings, beaches, and property. Once the assessment process is complete, the data will be used in the justification for a request of a presidential disaster declaration.

"Rhode Island, especially the southern portion of the State, was hit hard by Sandy," said RIEMA Executive Director Theresa C. Murray. "Any loss is devastating. We want Rhode Islanders to know that we are working closely with our federal partners to get as much federal assistance for this state as possible. And we want people to understand how the entire process works."

There are two types of federal assistance that can be requested. Public assistance (PA) is generally used to help local governments and non-profits. Individual assistance (IA) generally is used to assist homeowners with serious unmet needs. Access to this funding begins with the State's request for a Presidential Declaration of Emergency. If the request is approved, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) determines the final amount that will be assessable for recovery and mitigation projects.

"Once the state is notified that we are eligible for federal reimbursement, our PA and IA teams at RIEMA work closely with applicants on categorizing projects and calculating cost estimates," said Murray. "FEMA makes the final determination if a project is eligible for reimbursement, but there is specific and detailed information that needs to be captured, and RIEMA staff provides technical assistance to help applicants navigate the process."

If FEMA determines that a project is eligible for reimbursement, a minimum of 75% of the project costs are paid by the federal government. The remainder of the project is paid by local and state government. On average, the process to complete a project and receive reimbursement is 18 months to two years.

"Our goal is to support as many eligible projects as possible," said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer for Rhode Island James N. Russo. "Our focus is to return local governments, non-profits, and homes to a safe and healthy condition. Damages to secondary or vacation homes are not eligible for federal reimbursement."

For regularly updated information about the response to Hurricane Sandy, call 211 or visit

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