Posted by Melissa Burlaga
Superior, WI Northland's NewsCenter) Northwest Wisconsin communities impacted by the devastating storm on July 1 will be eligible for state disaster assistance, however, mounting damage estimates may require the state to replenish the disaster fund to make sure every community receives the maximum state help,” State Senator Bob Jauch (D.Poplar) said Monday.
Officials are still assessing total damage from the massive storm, but it is unlikely that they amount to $6 million, which is necessary to trigger eligibility for federal disaster assistance.
Therefore these communities will be eligible for the state disaster assistance program to pay for community response and clean up costs.
The Legislature recently appropriated $1 million for the next two years to fund the Wisconsin Disaster Assistance program that provides local communities grants covering up to 70% of certain costs associated with storm damage, including emergency response and cleanup costs.
Jauch said that it appears as though eligible public costs could either use or exceed the entire two-year disaster assistance appropriation. On Friday Burnett County estimated that storm response and clean up costs will be approximately $1.8 million.
Burnett County, which suffered over 20,000 acres in forest damage, estimates $547,800 in costs and the Town of Jackson alone estimates $300,000 for clean up costs.
The lawmaker said that additional damage in Washburn and Douglas County will result in over $2.2 million in total estimated costs to local communities from the storm.
Jauch, the author of the State Disaster Assistance program said that the program is critical to assure that communities are not economically burdened by the costs of the disaster. “Helping communities recover from a natural disaster is a basic function of government and local officials should be able to rely upon State government in shared responsibility toward paying for extraordinary costs,” Jauch said.
“The overtime, emergency response and massive clean-up costs will place a severe strain and in some cases exceed the total annual budgets for local governments so state assistance is absolutely critical to avoid economic burden to local taxpayers,” Jauch added.
During budget deliberations Jauch warned his Legislative colleagues that the $1 million appropriation would not be sufficient as an adequate reserve to help communities over the next two years.
He said that he was contacting the Walker Administration to seek a request to transfer at least $1.5 million to replenish the disaster program so that sufficient local assistance will be available to help communities in their time of great need.
“The Disaster Assistance program is a godsend to local elected officials and taxpayers but the State must make sure there is adequate funding to meet the promise of state assistance when the community needs it the most,” he concluded.