FEMA denies Hurley residents assistance after flood, United Way of Southwest Virginia intensifies fund-raising efforts
November 04, 2021
The Hurley Long Term Recovery Group (LTRG) is renewing its call for donations of funding and volunteers today after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied Virginia’s request for help in repairing and rebuilding homes in Hurley. Deadly floods damaged around 200 homes in Hurley on Aug. 30. FEMA said the disaster lacked “severity and magnitude.”
FEMA initially responded to Virginia’s request for a Declaration of Major Emergency in Hurley on Oct. 26 by authorizing public assistance for the governments of Buchanan County and the Commonwealth of Virginia to repair roads and other public infrastructure and to develop mitigation plans for future disasters.
Since then, however, FEMA quietly denied assistance to individuals and families in Hurley. A letter received by the office of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam Oct. 29, under the signature of David Bibo, acting associate administrator with FEMA’s Office of Response and Recovery, said, in part:
“The damage to the infrastructure was significant in the area designated for Public Assistance. However, based on our review of all of the information available, including the joint Individual Assistance Preliminary Damage Assessments, it has been determined that the impact to the individuals and households from this event was not of such severity and magnitude to warrant the designation of Individual Assistance under FEMA-4628-DR. Therefore, your request for Individual Assistance is denied.”
The Buchanan County Board of Supervisors immediately voted to appeal the FEMA decision, said County Administrator Craig Horn, “But, we think we’re going to be in the middle of winter before we get an answer.” FEMA has said it would entertain a request for an appeal within 30 days of its ruling, but has offered no timeline for responding to that request.
The LTRG, made up of community leaders and representatives of the United Way of Southwest Virginia, responded to the FEMA denial by intensifying its own fund-raising efforts on behalf of the residents of Hurley. “FEMA’s ruling comes despite the fact that the Virginia Department of Emergency Management assessed 44 homes in Hurley as ‘destroyed,’” said Travis Staton, president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia, the LTRG’s fiscal agent. “The LTRG has been raising funds with the expectation that those funds would complement FEMA’s assistance to the community. We strongly urge FEMA to grant the appeal in a timely manner.”
The LTRG has raised $236,000 to date, but hopes to significantly raise that figure in the coming days as word of FEMA’s ruling spreads.
“The people of Hurley waited for weeks for the federal bureaucracy to work, only to be denied help in rebuilding their homes just as freezing temperatures arrived,” Staton said. “Despite the work of many volunteers over the last few weeks, for which we are very grateful, we still have families here who cannot yet return to their homes. The need for assistance is immediate and real.”