Federal funds to help localities recover from damaging Feb. ice storms

Deadline to apply for public assistance through FEMA is Wednesday
Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 5:31 PM EDT
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NOTTOWAY COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - Communities in Central Virginia hit hard by February’s ice storms will soon get a helping hand from the federal government.

In May, President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Virginia following the severe winter storms from Feb. 11-13.

On May 10, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced federal disaster assistance would be made available to local government, private non-profits and state agencies impacted by mother nature; many that already exhausted their budgets due to the storm.

“Unprecedented is the only word that describes it,” said Katy Tomer, Nottoway County’s finance director. “It’s unlike anything we’ve seen around here.”

It’s been nearly four months, but Tomer said many Nottoway County residents have not forgotten those long cold nights when the power went out.

“I know some in Blackstone were out for either 13 or 14 days,” she said. “That’s substantial for anybody.”

NBC12 spoke with Blackstone’s Mayor in February about the damage from the ice storms. Mayor Billy Coleburn said it was the hardest natural disaster the town had ever seen.

“We’ve got to have some sort of federal disaster declaration to recover the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent just in Blackstone,” Coleburn said in February.

“After a few days local resources start to run out, they start to call for additional assistance,” said Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s (VDEM) Public Assistance Manager Leanne Vanderveer.

After Governor Ralph Northam declared a natural disaster, VDEM traveled across Central Virginia to assess the damage. In turn, it asked the federal government for financial help. President Biden approved the request last month.

“Now that they have spent the funding and completed those activities after the fact, they can apply for reimbursement for the money they’ve already spent,” Vanderveer said.

Now qualified applicants are putting the numbers together in order to apply for that public assistance grant.

“The county’s main cost, of course, we own the landfill, so debris removal,” Tomer said.

There was a lot of debris removal, some areas of the county still seeing some damage.

“There are still signs; still limbs, trees – we’ll know for a while that it happened,” Tomer added.

However, now the focus is on the future and moving forward.

“To help them recover faster, to hopefully build back their communities stronger and more resilient in the future,” Vanderveer said.

“As a community, as devastating as Nottoway was, I don’t think anybody could be any prouder about the way we rallied around each other to do everything we could,” Tomer said.

Meanwhile, VDEM said potential applicants for the public assistance program include localities, tribal governments, states agencies and certain private non-profits in the following jurisdictions:

  • Amelia County
  • Appomattox County
  • Bedford County
  • Brunswick County
  • Campbell County
  • Caroline County
  • Charlotte County
  • Cumberland County
  • Dinwiddie County
  • Essex County
  • Floyd County
  • Franklin County
  • Goochland County
  • Greensville County
  • Halifax County
  • King and Queen County
  • King William County
  • Lancaster County
  • Louisa County
  • Lunenburg County
  • Mecklenburg County
  • Middlesex County
  • New Kent County
  • Northumberland County
  • Nottoway County
  • Patrick County
  • Pittsylvania County
  • Powhatan County
  • Prince Edward County
  • Prince George County
  • Richmond County

“Additional designations may be made if requested by June 9, and warranted by the results of further damage assessments that are ongoing in Virginia,” a news release said.

Applicants have until Wednesday, June 9 to submit an official Request for Public Assistance (RPA) in the FEMA Grants Portal to be considered for the program.

For more information, click here.

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