Gov. Baker: Massachusetts receiving $120M in disaster aid

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker said Massachusetts is expecting to receive $120 million in federal disaster assistance following last winter’s record snowfall.

That’s the most ever awarded to the state as the result of a single natural disaster.

Half of the money — about $60 million — will help reimburse cities and towns for storm-related costs, including coastal flooding. About $24 million already has been distributed.

“I’m proud that Massachusetts is securing this critical budgetary relief as a result of last winter’s damages,” Baker said Wednesday.

Baker said the money will help ensure critical repairs are made as the state strengthens its disaster preparedness ahead of the winter season.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency granted the state a disaster declaration for a Jan. 26-28 blizzard. The blizzard was the first of a series of unrelenting snowstorms that dropped more than nine feet of snow in Boston.

Baker called the blizzard the largest public assistance disaster in the state’s history, involving more than 650 applicants for aid.

Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director Kurt Schwartz said the $120 million in federal disaster assistance represents FEMA’s 75 percent share of the $160 million total damage costs incurred.

Officials said Boston already has been reimbursed $2.8 million to help cover snow removal costs.

Worcester has been reimbursed more than $500,000 — also for snow removal. Nantucket has been reimbursed $17,000 for debris removal of a damaged pier and expects to receive an additional $800,000 for pier repairs.

The assistance originally was authorized last April after Baker requested federal disaster assistance in the wake of the storms. The aid will go to 10 counties, including Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Essex, Middlesex, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk and Worcester.

Baker originally asked for an emergency declaration for the entire 28-day period, arguing that the string of pounding storms that buried streets and forced the shutdown or reduction of public transit amounted to a single event.

Federal officials rejected that request as it did a second request from Baker seeking to extend the 48-hour reimbursement period of the January blizzard to 72 hours. The state’s congressional delegation also had backed the request for a 72-hour declaration.

The state reported 25 weather-related deaths as a result of the storms, including pedestrians struck by snow plows, fatal falls involving people attempting to clear snow from roofs and heart attacks from shoveling snow.

Under the federal disaster relief program costs eligible for 75 percent reimbursement include repairing, replacing, restoring or reconstructing storm-damaged public facilities, transportation networks and coastal infrastructure.

Other eligible costs including storm-related overtime costs for first responders and 48 hours of snow removal activities, including the removal of snow from public roads, transit systems, sidewalks, and property, including roofs.
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