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Orange Beach, Gulf Shores to benefit from FEMA rule change

Posted on April 18, 2022

Orange Beach, Ala. – (OBA) – A new FEMA rule will net cities in coastal Alabama cities millions in federal funding to pay for damage caused by Hurricane Sally in September of 2020.

“For Hurricane Sally, the initial debris removal project resulted in the city being reimbursed $5 million,” Orange Beach Deputy Coastal Resources Director Nicole Woerner said. “With this adjustment, an additional check will be coming to the city in the amount of $1 million.”

It was announced on March 22 that FEMA will up its portion of reimbursements to 90 percent. In the past, FEMA paid 75 percent, the city 12.5 percent and the state 12.5 percent. But that $1 million is not all Orange Beach is going to get, Woerner said, since work on one of the city’s most popular piers has yet to start. Repairs are still in the planning stages.

“All projects, including Waterfront Park Pier will be reimbursed 95 percent total, 90 percent federal share and 5 percent state share,” Woerner said. “This will result in the City of Orange Beach receiving additional funds that were not anticipated to the tune of a couple million additional dollars in reimbursement from Hurricane Sally.”

Over in Gulf Shores, EMA Director Brandan Franklin says FEMA has already paid for most of the projects related to Sally but the additional 15 percent in federal funding is a welcome bonus.

“We are awaiting the full details of the bill and how each FEMA Category will be affected but hope that it will cover our entire costs for Hurricane Sally which includes: Emergency Measures, Facilities, Debris and our beach renourishment project,” Franklin said. “The city has received $8.5 million and is currently due $50,000. While we are still awaiting the final approvals, we anticipate somewhere between $6 million-$7 million in FEMA funding for the beach restoration work and $450,000 direct administrative cost reimbursement, which has yet to be filed.”

Beach restoration is sorely needed in some areas of Gulf Shores where there is not enough room for emergency vehicles and public safety crews to access. Both Gulf Shores and Orange Beach recently approved funds for a survey of the areas of the Gulf floor where new sand will be harvested to make sure there are no Native American artifacts or other historic materials in the areas.

In Foley, the city will get almost $1 million in extra federal funding because of the rule change.

“That is very good news because it means it saves the city 7.5 percent of the cost of recovery from the storm as well as the state 7.5 percent,” City Administrator Michael Thompson said. “For us, and although the numbers are still moving around, 7.5 percent should amount to around $1 million of additional reimbursement than what we were originally expecting.”

Of the projects applied for by Foley, FEMA has already paid out about $11 million but some projects are still pending and some have been denied. Some of the denied projects are on appeal to FEMA.

“We have been working to close out eighteen separate projects with FEMA over the course of the Sally recovery, most of which have been closed out, and paid out by the FEMA at 75 percent,” Thompson said. “Twelve have been approved, closed, and paid out. One is still pending a decision, and five have been denied. Two of the five denials are on appeal.”

Of those, the biggest FEMA payout was for post-storm debris cleanup at $8.5 million. About $709,000 in projects have been denied in Foley and the city has about $1.7 million pending.

In Baldwin County, Chief Financial Officer Cian Harrison says the new rule will net the county between $5 million-$6 million.

“No timetable has been set on when the additional 15 percent coverage will be paid by FEMA, but eventually it will be,” Thompson said. “FEMA payment is sent to the state and then the state sends the local share to the local governing body and this additional 15 percent has not yet been received by the state for redistribution.”

FEMA pays on a project-by-project basis, Thompson said, but the state waits until all projects are complete before paying its percent of the reimbursement, now 5 percent under the new rules.


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