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Louisa working to ease homeowner burdens

Press release:

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

COUNTY WORKS TO EASE HOMEOWNER BURDEN WHILE CONTINUING TO SEEK FEMA AID

LOUISA, VA – On October 17, 2011, the Louisa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pass the broadest tax relief possible for homeowners whose homes were devastated by the August 23, 2011, earthquake.  Homes that were damaged qualify for Individual Assistance under federal FEMA disaster relief programs if they are approved by the Office of the President of the United States.  The damage to homes so far adds up to about $18 million and affects about 900 homes.  Another 460-plus houses are awaiting inspection.

Aid available under the Individual Assistance programs for earthquake relief is nothing new.  In 2001, Alaskawas approved for federal Individual Assistance by President Bush to help residents of that state who had damages or losses during the Nov. 3-10 earthquake and aftershocks. Total assistance today exceeds $1,600,000.  In 2002, at the request of New York’s Governor, President Bush approved individual assistance as well as additional financial assistance for a magnitude 5.1 earthquake that struck upstate New York.

On August 23, 2011, a once in a generation 5.8 magnitude earthquake devastated homes in rural Virginia and this damage was compounded by response to Hurricane Irene and a tornado.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has rejected Virginia’s application for emergency aid and White House officials flatly turned down an invitation by Gov. Bob McDonnell for the president to visit Louisa and see the damage.  On October 18, 2011, the President of the United States passed through Virginia (within about one hour ofLouisa County) without a visit to rural Virginia.

“Why should some states receive FEMA Individual Aid for their homeowners from the Office of the President but others do not?  We all pay the same federal taxes and we should all receive the same benefit of those taxes.” Louisa County Board of Supervisors member P.T. Spencer (Louisa District).

“We just want our citizens to be treated fairly.  There is a choice to be made – without assistance from the Office of the President real people will suffer.”  Richard Havasy, Board of Supervisors (Green Springs District).

County leaders are looking for explanations.  “How can we explain earthquake recovery funding in smaller episodes in other states when our requests for Individual Aid is denied?”  asked County Administrator Robert Dube’.

“I am confident our President and elected representatives in Washington can see this FEMA request as an opportunity to step up and fulfill a promise to homeowners in impossible circumstances.  I urge county citizens to contact those elected official and the President to let them know just how desperate the need for aid is.”  Board Chairman Willie Gentry (Cuckoo District)

County Attorney Dale Mullen noted that “On October 17, 2011, Chairman Gentry and the entire Louisa County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the broadest local tax relief program available for damaged homes allowed by law.  The Louisa County Board of Supervisors has also proposed other revenue sources like a county-wide meals tax set for referendum on November 8, that will help offset the enormous expense associated with capital improvements to our damaged schools.  Private fundraising and local efforts are important – but no matter what we can do locally – it represents a very small drop in a very large bucket in comparison to the $18 million of damage to homeowners needing federal assistance.”

County Finance Director Christian Goodwin added: “From a financial standpoint, this is a unique disaster event.  The community has sustained over $18 million in damages to private structures, and only 2% of that loss is estimated to be covered by insurance. That means the balance is coming out of the pockets of ordinary folks – different than other disaster situations where insurance would shoulder that burden.  This is an opportunity to keep people in their homes.”

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