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Ohio, FEMA differ on storm damage estimates

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(The Center Square) – Ohio officials say federal storm damage estimates from an April weather event are dramatically low, leaving eight counties short of the threshold for a disaster declaration and federal help.

Gov. Mike DeWine has asked for a presidential disaster declaration for the counties impacted by severe storms, flooding and tornadoes, despite FEMA’s claims damage estimates do not rise to the level of a declaration.

Ohio and FEMA show a $16 million difference in damage in Belmont, Monroe, Jefferson, Guernsey, Noble, Washington, Morgan and Meigs counties.

DeWine, in a letter to President Joe Biden’s administration, said the federal government refused to allow additional information from local officials and based its findings online on Google Earth showings.

“Frankly, we think FEMA’s estimate is incorrect,” DeWine said. “The federal government’s reliance on Google Earth and its failure to give local officials the opportunity to provide additional information to support its estimate is concerning. These eight Appalachian counties cannot afford to fix the tremendous amount of infrastructure damage on their own, and I believe it’s the president’s duty to step in and help.”

Ohio EMA calculated total damage of $33.8 million, above the $21.7 million federal disaster threshold in Ohio. FEMA’s damage estimate was $17.4 million, $4.3 million under the federal threshold.

A disaster declaration would provide grants to state and local governments and nonprofit organizations for infrastructure repairs and to address the costs associated with debris operations and emergency protective measures. This also includes the designation of the statewide Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

DeWine wrote in the letter, “The greatest impact from this incident is the damage to critical infrastructure in multiple counties, such as roads and culverts. There are reports of hundreds of road washouts, whether a result of lost road materials or embankment failures. These are rural counties within the Appalachian Region with low county populations. Low populations result in low tax revenue for county engineer offices and townships. Funding daily operations is a challenge and making expensive repairs that result from this incident with their own budgets is not feasible.”

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