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4 area counties get storm aid

Allen not on FEMA grant list for winter damages

– Parts of northeast Indiana - but not Allen County – will receive federal assistance to cover damage from winter storms in early January.

Gov. Mike Pence announced Tuesday that his appeal for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency had been successful after FEMA had earlier rejected his request.

FEMA grants will pay 75 percent of eligible expenses for weather damage Jan. 5-9 to roads, bridges, utilities and other infrastructure and for traffic control and rescue operations. The money will go to state and local governments and nonprofit groups.

Pence said the grants could total millions of dollars.

Nineteen counties qualified for aid, including Huntington, Kosciusko, Noble and Whitley counties. Thirty more counties were denied assistance, among them Allen, DeKalb and Wells counties.

Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters was not surprised that Allen County did not qualify. He said FEMA assistance is based on a per capita expense formula.

“We simply didn’t have enough eligible expenses,” Peters said. “I’m afraid this may be one of the situations where the larger counties simply lose out.”

But, Peters added, “Lord knows I’m not suggesting that I hope there would have been more damage just to make that ratio a little bit smaller.”

Only five of the 19 counties that qualified for help – Hendricks, Kosciusko, Madison, Morgan and Vigo – are among the 25 most populous counties in Indiana, according to the 2010 census.

Rejected counties include six of the seven-most populous: Marion, Lake, Allen, Hamilton, Elkhart and Vanderburgh. The fifth-most populous, St. Joseph County, was not among counties where federal aid was sought.

After President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration for Indiana on Tuesday, the White House announced that “additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.”

Pence declared a state of disaster emergency in 29 counties on Jan. 6, including Kosciusko, Noble, Steuben and Whitley.

He visited an Allen County fire station on Jan. 9 to thank public safety employees for their work after a foot of snow fell on the area and temperatures dropped below zero.

All four public school districts in Allen County canceled classes that week, and the county issued travel restrictions early in the week.