NBC12 investigates reasons FEMA denies tornado assistance

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The Commonwealth received some disappointing news from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Thursday and it's leaving residents in tornado ravaged areas with questions.  The feds denied Virginia's appeals for damage assistance for all of April's devastating storms.

Who could forget the devastating images of a Gloucester school reduced to rubble and buses tossed like toys?  In many Richmonders' second home of Deltaville, a church was cut in half.  With recovery ongoing, it might be difficult to comprehend there simply wasn't enough damage to warrant aid.

"It was disappointing for sure," said Department of Emergency Management spokesman Bob Spieldenner.

He told NBC12 Thursday, there's no magic explanation for denial.

"The reason given is that the amount of damage did not reach the threshold that FEMA has set," he said.

One issue is that the Commonwealth asked FEMA to look at the twenty days when dozens of tornadoes hit as one time period, so the damage would count collectively.  That request was denied.

Another obstacle to federal aid includes the fact that many of the destroyed homes are covered by insurance.

"By law FEMA cannot duplicate other assistance," explained Spieldenner.  "So they can't, if you have homeowner's insurance, they can't provide assistance to you."

And for example in Deltaville, FEMA won't help with the many homes that are not primary residences but vacation places.

So we wanted to know where that leaves us and where we go from here. The governor says he'll immediately pursue assistance from the Small Business Administration.  It gives out low interest loans to homeowners, renters and business owners who have suffered damage

Spieldenner thinks the state may luck out here.

"The Small Business Administration has some thresholds but they're relatively lower," he explained.  "We feel comfortable given our past experience with other events that we'll be able to get the assistance."

We're told the state will submit its aid application to the SBA by next week. We should know the results soon after that.

For now, there's still a lot of work and waiting ahead.

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