At its Monday meeting, members of the Gering City Council voted to withdraw the city’s request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for cleanup assistance in the aftermath of last March’s blizzard.
The request for just over $100,000 was made after FEMA issued a disaster declaration for certain Nebraska counties. The declaration was for damage incurred from the “bomb cyclone” in mid-March that left the Panhandle buried in snow and extensive flooding in eastern Nebraska.
“We spent a lot of time documenting our claim for FEMA, but were denied by their criteria,” said Gering City Clerk Kathy Welfl. “After being denied under two of their categories, city staff determined the city should withdraw its claim.”
She said that because the cleanup from the storm used taxpayer money, the city wanted to pursue a claim, regardless of the outcome.
“These are public funds, so we needed to make our best effort to get back whatever we could,” Welfl said. “We did that, but FEMA determined we didn’t qualify.”
In its initial determination from July, FEMA said the city’s claim under its Category A was no longer validated. However, agency officials encouraged the city to request a validation under Category B, which covered “emergency related actions and measures to ensure public safety and help enable emergency equipment and personnel to reach citizens.”
Gering resubmitted its request in Category B for snow removal assistance for main streets and secondary streets, along with overtime for the cleanup effort.
FEMA’s original disaster declaration was for a severe winter storm, straight line winds and flooding, not all of which were covered as Emergency Protective Measures. “This is not a Snow Event so opening up roads and streets and removal of snow is not eligible work,” the Gering report said.
Welfl said city staff put a lot of hours into preparing their request for assistance. “We met twice with FEMA officials and they were very impressed with our paperwork and documentation,” she said. “But in the end, we didn’t meet their criteria.