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FEMA Hopes For More Sandy Funds

Villages that suffered great damage during Superstorm Sandy are in line to expect larger financial reimbursements, according to John Gray, FEMA task force public assistance leader assigned to Long Island.  Gray explained the possible reimbursement increase recently as he spoke to a large group of mayors and trustees at the most recent Nassau County Village Officials Association meeting.

Gray reported that the FEMA payout for Sandy will be in the billions of dollars. Once it exceed $2.5 billion, 90 percent reimbursement could be requested by the governor and this is anticipated.

Gray, retired from a long career with the Air Force, now deals with hurricane and disaster victims and deals with tax based organizations, counties, cities, schools and with private non-profits that provide critical infrastructure assistance.  At this point in time, there are 294 such applications for assistance in Nassau County. There are applications that total a request for reimbursement of $215 million.

“And we’re only half through,” Gray said.
Gray also reported that he and his crew of 50 are also now dealing with the devastated Long Beach boardwalk.  There are meetings almost weekly. “This is a very publicized project, involving tourism … there’s a lot to put together and we want to do the right thing,” he added.

Gray and his crew are busy going out and documenting damages and then documenting repairs. He said that at the start, the government reimbursed 75 percent of “eligible costs.” However, now he reports that the government is going to “step up” at the end of May, and between the state and federal governments the total is expected to allow for 90 percent reimbursements, with only 10 percent “out-of-pocket” for Sandy victims.

Right at this minute, Gray said that he and his team are “running at high volume now … stretched a little thin but operating at full tilt.” And even though they had to deploy trainees and teach them how to deal with applicants, “now we are hearing good things from the public … and that’s our objective.”

Gray said that they are working fast, wanting to “work ourselves out of a job; working fast so that “everyone gets all they are entitled to.” And for John Gray, “this is the fun part, getting the right documentation and getting the money flowing.”

As for victims receiving the reimbursements, Gray is proud that “New York State does an amazing job turning dollars around … with checks sent out four or five days after the obligation is decided.”  FEMA sends the funds to the state which then remits them to the parties entitled to the reimbursement.

Gray began this FEMA work right after Hurricane Katrina stuck and he saw the mistakes made there.  He was ready to make changes and do better. “This is a fun, satisfying job … you meet lots of interesting people … there’s a lot of satisfaction doing a good job for people and seeing them recover.”

And so Gray anticipates further reimbursements soon. While the state has not announced it will pick up part or all of the FEMA un-reimbursed share, it picked up part of the Hurricane Irene share. For any village that has already been reimbursed, they will receive the additional amount.