close
close

Massachusetts denies federal aid for flood-damaged public property in Leominster and other communities – Boston News, Weather, Sports

LEOMINSTER, MASS. (WHDH) – Federal officials were in Leominster Wednesday to help residents affected by last year's severe flash floods apply for newly authorized disaster assistance.

But while the money is on its way to individual citizens, the city of Leominster will not receive any federal funds to repair public property damaged by the flood, according to officials.

“This is devastating news,” Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella said in a statement Wednesday.

Between September 11 and 13, 2023, Leominster and several other Massachusetts communities were hit by heavy rains. In Leominster – where the city estimates the storms on September 11 brought 10 inches of rain in just four hours – the floodwaters washed away streets and driveways. The water also swallowed cars and damaged buildings.

Emergency services in Leominster rescued several people and schools remained closed for several days.

“This once-in-a-millennium storm has destroyed month-old sidewalks, freshly paved and marked roads, and even a recently replaced sewer,” Mazzarella said. “It's heartbreaking.”

According to FEMA, the flood damage was “not of such severity and magnitude” to justify public disaster assistance

At the request of Governor Maura Healey, the White House earlier this month approved federal funds for individuals in Worcester and Bristol counties struggling with the aftermath of the flooding.

The declaration partially reversed an earlier FEMA decision to deny assistance, but did not authorize immediate assistance to reimburse state and local governments for some storm-related expenses.

According to Mazzarella and Governor Maura Healey's office, public assistance in Hampden and Worcester counties remains under review.

Mazzarella said at the time: “This is a big step in the right direction.”

Rep. Jim McGovern said he was grateful for the individual support but urged President Joe Biden's administration to “agree with our entire appeal.”

But just weeks later, Mazzarella's office said Wednesday that officials had learned “that a final decision had been made that no funds would be provided for the extensive repairs needed on city-owned property throughout the city.”

Keith Turi, deputy director of FEMA's Office of Response and Recovery, explained the federal government's decision in a letter to Governor Healey's office.

“The impact of this event on individuals and households was significant in the areas designated for individual assistance,” Turi said in the letter, which was shared by the Leominster mayor's office. “However, based on our review of all the information provided in the original application and appeal, we reiterate our original determination that the damage to infrastructure from this event was not so severe and extensive as to warrant a determination of public assistance.”

Mazzarella said Leominster spent $2 million of city funds on temporary repairs after the September floods “to reopen our city.”

Mazzarella nevertheless praised the efforts of city officials, saying staff had “worked day and night to achieve this declaration.”

After FEMA ultimately denied aid, Mazzarella said 75 sites around Leominster still needed repairs, with some projects costing millions of dollars.

“Instead of applying for grants and other funds to repair the next projects on our priority list, we need to try to secure them to repair the sites damaged by the flood,” Mazzarella said.

“Many people in our community have had to grapple with repairs to sudden and unexpected damage,” the mayor continued. “As for public infrastructure, I can assure you that our team will continue to work hard to secure funding to make our community whole again.”

FEMA and SBA officials help residents in Leominster and Attleboro

Representatives from FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration will be at Leominster City Hall from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday to help residents apply for disaster assistance.

Individuals can also apply online at DisasterAssistance.gov, by phone at 1-800-621-3362, or through FEMA’s mobile app.

A special disaster relief center is open in Attleboro. People affected by flooding can apply for individual assistance there without an appointment from Monday to Saturday between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.

(Copyright (c) 2024 Sunbeam Television. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news directly in your inbox

Anna Harden

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *