Federal officials reversed course Friday and approved Virginia’s request for disaster aid related to a rare earthquake that struck in August.
In early October, the Federal Emergency Management Agency turned down Virginia’s request for funds to help property owners and renters in Louisa County recover from the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Aug. 23.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) appealed that decision last Friday with support from Virginia’s entire congressional delegation. McDonnell announced Friday evening that FEMA had been persuaded to grant the aid.
“Many of our fellow Virginians who call Louisa home are hurting, and this is critically needed aid during a very trying time,” McDonnell said in a prepared statement. “The once-in-one-hundred-years earthquake that struck Virginia in August caused significant damage that was not covered by homeowner’s insurance. Many homes and businesses have been extensively damaged. This assistance is a key resource for families and business owners who have been trying to recover for more than two months.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D) called the decision “the best news I’ve heard in some time.”
“This is very welcome news for homeowners and business people in Louisa,” Warner said in a statement. “Approval of this federal assistance will provide access to low-interest loans and other aid that can help individuals rebuild and recover from the damage caused by a rare, once-in-a-generation 5.8-magnitude earthquake.”
More than 1,400 homes were damaged by the quake and its many aftershocks, according to McDonnell’s office.
The aid will be available through FEMA’s Individual Assistance and Hazard Mitigation funds. Homeowners, renters and businesses will be eligible for low-interest loans and grants, unemployment assistance, disaster housing assistance and crisis counseling.
In a separate request filed in late October, McDonnell asked FEMA for $31 million to help repair or replace Louisa County schools, two of them shuttered since the quake. That request is pending.
Individuals and families in need of earthquake recovery aid can register immediately by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585. People can also register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. Those with smartphones or other mobile devices also can register at m.fema.gov.