Berkeley County fighting for FEMA money from 2015 flooding

Berkeley County Administration building in Moncks Corner.
Berkeley County Administration building in Moncks Corner.

BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) — The costs from Hurricane Matthew are adding up, and the damage is still being repaired. Meanwhile, Berkeley County is still working to get money from FEMA for the flooding of 2015.

According to Berkeley County spokesman, Michael Mule, the county estimates $17M worth of damages, and the money they spent on clean-up is eligible for FEMA reimbursement. However, the FEMA’s assessment falls does not cover the full amount.

“From the time of the flood, to today, we have received a total of about $750,000,” said Mule. “Now we’ve been approved for more money, we’ve gotten the finalization paperwork, but the actual cash in hand is around $750,000.”

Berkeley County is not alone. Charleston County is also trudging through the painful process of getting FEMA reimbursement. According to a county spokesman, Charleston County submitted $29M in claims from October 2015. So far, the county has received $777,000.

The SCDOT ran up a tab of $137M to clean-up last year’s mess. They submitted $88M to FEMA and the Federal Highways Emergency Relief Fund. So far, the SCDOT has only seen $19M. Worst of all, the meter is still running.

SCDOT spokesman, Pete Poore sent the I-Team this statement:

We expect these costs to rise due to the possibility of SCDOT rebuilding roads over privately owned dams.  There are approximately 20 roads still closed that involve privately owned dams.  If the landowner make the repairs to the dam, then SCDOT will reconstruct the roadway.  If the landowner decides to decommission the dam, then SCDOT will perform the necessary hydrology studies to determine whether a pipe, culvert or bridge is needed in order to carry the stream or outfall underneath the road, then we will proceed with constructing the necessary structures, including road repairs, in order to reopen the road.   No firm estimate is available for this additional work, but we would expect it to range between $10-20 Million.

Mule says, Berkeley County’s beef is not with FEMA, or the people who work for the agency.

“It’s more of the process,” Mule added. “The process right now is what makes $17M in claims, and a year later you only have $700,000.”

Local governments and agencies are echoing the same sentiments we heard time, and again from individuals who applied for help with FEMA. Often times. there is a drastic difference in what you think the damage is worth, and what FEMA is willing to pay.

FEMA representatives admit, it is a long process.

“It takes a long time, but we need to make sure that we are crossing every “T”, and dotting every “I”,” said FEMA representative William Lindsey. “We try to be good stewards of taxpayer money.”

In an effort to speed up the process, Berkeley County officials say, FEMA agreed to send a single point-person to work with the county on their case.

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