Massachusetts Gets Disaster Declaration for January Blizzard

By STEVE LeBLANC | April 15, 2015

Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday that federal disaster aid that the state has been granted for a late January blizzard could bring between $80 million and $90 million, but he’s disappointed his broader request wasn’t approved.

“I’m disappointed that they limited the declaration basically to the contours of the first storm,” Baker said at Logan International Airport after returning from a meeting in Washington, D.C., with Vice President Joe Biden.

President Barack Obama signed the disaster declaration for the Jan. 26-28 storm on Monday.

Baker had taken the unusual step of asking Obama to treat the series of storms that pummeled Massachusetts in January and February as a single, continuous event, for which he has said the state’s costs total about $400 million.

“I live here, OK. I didn’t think it was a tough sell because I was living through this,” Baker said. “However, there is a lot of snow that falls around the rest of the country as well. From the federal government’s point of view, we were pretty aware that what we were seeking would be precedental.”

As of mid-March, when Baker submitted the written disaster aid request, Boston had received 108.6 inches of snow – about 9 feet – topping a seasonal record of 107.9 inches that was set in 1995-96. Nearly 65 inches fell in February alone, shattering the previous one-month record of 43.3 inches in January 2005.

The state reported 25 deaths, including pedestrians struck by snow plows, fatal falls involving people attempting to clear snow from roofs and heart attacks from shoveling snow. Hospitals reported treating more than 1,500 people for weather-related injuries.

He said the state will go back and review documents to see what qualifies for federal assistance. The state also has 30 days to appeal.

Baker said not getting the broader federal aid approved will not have an impact on the state budget. He said he thinks the state could qualify for aid for damage from the February storms, but perhaps not for additional snow removal costs.

Under the declaration issued Monday, federal funding is available to help cover the cost of emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the January blizzard in Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Essex, Middlesex, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk and Worcester counties.

The aid is available to state, tribal and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations.

It also covers state and local government snow-removal costs for a continuous 48-hour period during or after the storm and the costs of related hazard mitigation.

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