"This is a huge bill for a city or a county to have to swallow," said
To locals, it's clearly a disaster area. But to get an official federal disaster declaration -- and the federal reimbursement that comes with it -- someone will have to prove that
"The Stafford Act sets a per capita rate, based on a state's population in the census and adjusted for the Consumer Price Index," said
That's good news for
"States and local governments should be able to provide for routine events, and a tornado is routine event in
Fugate said the law was built on the notion that states have first responsibility for disaster response, with federal assistance kicking in only in abnormally severe disasters. He said some large-population states actually do set aside money to cover disaster costs. But most states, he said, set aside little or no money, hoping they'll meet the threshold for federal funds.
Fugate, who was director of
"People gave Bush a hard time for not even applying for federal assistance, but, he said 'This is what we have a rainy day fund for," Fugate said.
"These costs could bankrupt some small towns," Gaddy said.
There's still a chance the
Much depends on how much insurers will pay. Federal assistance will cover only a local government's uninsured costs, officials say. Jacksonville State's buildings are insured by the state
Watchdog agencies such as the Government Accountability Office have suggested raising the threshold in order to require states to pay even more out-of-pocket. As
Fugate had hoped to get that policy into place though administrative rule changes, but the Obama administration ended before the changes were final.
Fugate said federal law technically prohibits
"Everybody hates it but no one has a better solution," he said.
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