Jamaica residents not denied by FEMA, but not eligible

Friday January 18, 2013

JAMAICA -- There has been confusion during the past two days since the Reformer published an article on the Water Street properties being "denied buy-outs by FEMA."

"This has been an uphill battle since day one," said Jamaica Selectboard Chairwoman Alexa Clark after speaking with FEMA Media Relations Specialist David Mace. "We took it as denied but I guess we have to wait until we get official word from FEMA. We've sent in all the necessary paperwork to see if we're eligible for cost benefit analysis."

The property owners have spent more than a year trying to get funds from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program made available by FEMA.

State Hazard Mitigation Officer Ray Doherty had contacted Jamaica's Emergency Management Director Paul Fraser about the final attempt to gain funding from the HGMP on Jan. 11.

Doherty reported that he had attempted but had been "unable to produce a benefit cost analysis (BCA) to show cost effectiveness in accordance with the FEMA methodology. Therefore, it appears that this project is ineligible for FEMA funding under the HMGP program."

The letter also included a list of organizations that the property owners could attempt to find funding from. It named the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, private foundations, local recovery or other relief funds as potential sources.

"All the state has done is say that, ‘We can't provide the information you asked for,'" said Mace. "FEMA's position is that we're still waiting for direction from the state. We take our direction from the state, but at this point they haven't told us anything. To say FEMA has denied ... is inaccurate."

Mace made it clear that by March 1, FEMA will make its decision on whether the land buy-outs are eligible or ineligible for the HMGP.

Water Street property owner David Kaneshiro told the Reformer that a neighbor, Karin Hardy, had been interviewed by WCAX and discussed the issue.

WCAX also had been told by Mace that the property owners had not been denied by FEMA.

"Did FEMA say when we will be formally denied, or is this another delay tactic?" Kaneshiro wrote in an e-mail to the Reformer. "Seems like a word game to avoid lowering the club. We were informed initially, (that) FEMA had corrected and improved their ability to handle disaster victims since ‘Katrina' ... Our group is still proceeding as if ‘formally denied' by FEMA."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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