Governor Chris Sununu’s legislation signed into law on Friday aims to expedite aid to New Hampshire communities affected by natural disasters, such as the heavy rains and flooding that caused millions of dollars in damage in Cheshire and Sullivan counties. Last year.
NH Sen. Jay Kahn, D-Keene, said climate change is likely to make these types of calamities more common.
“We will see more intense storms,” Kahn said Monday. “And hopefully what we’re building is some resilience, not just the infrastructure as is, but using the Federal Emergency Management Agency process to replace and improve.”
Around the world, heat-trapping gases released by human activity are causing rising temperatures and contributing to droughts, wildfires and extreme rainfall at a faster rate than scientists predicted, according to NASA.
A preliminary estimate indicated that about $6 million in damage was caused about a year ago by torrential rains hitting the Monadnock area, damaging key roads and other infrastructure, Kahn said. He said Acworth was particularly affected. The damage to private property did not meet FEMA’s threshold for federal assistance.
The preliminary damage estimate came from the city’s initial assessments to ensure the loss of public assets was sufficient for a presidential disaster declaration, Kahn said, adding that number is expected to rise significantly as plans develop. are developed for repair and replacement work.
Two separate Presidential Disaster Declarations have been designated in parts of the Monadnock area, one from July 17-18, 2021 and another from July 29-August 2.
Such declarations pave the way for federal coverage of 75% of costs incurred by state and local governments and nonprofit organizations as a result of the disaster.
Senate Bill 402, of which Kahn was the main sponsor, will allow local communities to apply to the state for half of the required 25% matching funds, or 12.5%.
The legislation took effect immediately with Sununu’s signature and applies to all federally declared disasters since July 1, 2021.
The State’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Joint Tax Committee of the Legislative Assembly, the Governor and the Executive Council will decide whether or not to grant assistance on a case-by-case basis.
But by putting in place an established process to seek out that money, the bill will speed up assistance to local communities struggling to afford the 25% match without assistance, Kahn said.
“This is a big step forward in ensuring cities have a process and pathway for reimbursement of disaster relief assistance,” Kahn said.
He also co-sponsored Senate Bill 409, which will allow the state to provide interest-free temporary loans to communities covered by a state of emergency declaration by the governor. Sununu signed this bill on June 17 and it took effect immediately.
Previous state law required a presidential disaster area declaration for such loans.
According to the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Hinsdale, Jaffrey, Richmond, Troy and Winchester all requested funds only at the first presidential disaster declaration.
In response to the late July storm, Walpole, Acworth, Charlestown, Goshen, Langdon, Lempster, Newport, Sunapee, Unity and Washington applied for funds, FEMA said. Alstead, Fitzwilliam, Keene, Marlborough, Marlow, Roxbury and Swanzey submitted claims for both disasters.
Swanzey City Administrator Michael T. Branley said his town suffered $100,000 in damages, mostly from damaged roads, and has yet to receive any money from FEMA.
“It’s a slow process,” he says. “For us it’s not the end of the world, but for a town like Acworth or Alstead, some of these small towns that have been hit really hard, they’ve had millions of dollars in damage in a community that has some millions of dollars. budget.
“I don’t know how they would meet that expense, so I could see how this legislation could be hugely beneficial to them.”
Rick Green can be reached at [email protected] or 603-355-8567.
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