FEMA Denies Massachusetts’ Bid to Extend Snow Disaster Aid

May 20, 2015

The federal government has denied Massachusetts’ request to expand disaster aid for a January blizzard, the first of several major storms that pummeled the state this past winter.

Gov. Charlie Baker appealed to the Federal Emergency Management Agency last week to extend the disaster declaration for snow removal costs from 48 to 72 hours for the Jan. 26-28 storm. The state’s congressional delegation wrote separately to President Barack Obama in support of Baker’s request, pointing to steep costs incurred by the state and its municipalities for removing “crippling amounts” of snow.

“After a thorough review of all the information contained in your appeal, it is determined that the snowfall that occurred during the incident period … does not meet the criteria set forth in FEMA’s Snow Assistance and Severe Winter Storm Policy to warrant extending the eligible time period of snow assistance,” wrote FEMA administrator Craig Fugate in a letter to Baker, dated Tuesday, denying the appeal.

Baker initially asked the federal government to declare a 28-day period of severe winter weather as a single, continuous disaster. But FEMA limited its declaration to the 48-hour period of the January blizzard, which Baker estimated could make available between $80 million and $90 million in snow removal reimbursement for the state and some 250 cities and towns.

The Baker administration has estimated total costs from the record-setting snowfall at approximately $400 million. The state reported 25 weather-related deaths, including pedestrians struck by snow plows, fatal falls involving people attempting to clear snow from roofs and heart attacks from shoveling snow.

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