In reversal, federal disaster aid is approved for Somerset Co.

Granting an appeal by Gov. Martin O'Malley, the Obama administration reversed course Friday and approved disaster aid for Somerset County residents who suffered damage from the remnants of Hurricane Sandy.

However, the federal government did not alter its Dec. 3 decision to deny help to Western Maryland.

"This assistance will provide much-needed and long-awaited relief for hundreds of residents in Somerset County," O'Malley said in a statement released Friday night.

"Well, that is grand," said Somerset homeowner Sandy Sturgis after hearing the news. She estimated that her home in Crisfield suffered $10,000 in damage during the late October storm.

Though the federal government issued a disaster declaration for Maryland that will help pay to fix public property, the Federal Emergency Management Agency determined that the storm didn't cause enough damage to warrant aid to individuals who lost homes or businesses.

Angry officials in Maryland vowed to appeal, a step O'Malley formally took earlier this week. The request was based on new damage reports that the Maryland Emergency Management Agency gathered when it sent officials to Lower Shore counties.

It requested federal assistance for individuals in Dorchester, Garrett, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties, according to the state's congressional delegation.

State officials are encouraging anyone in Somerset County who suffered Sandy-related damage to call 800-621-FEMA (3362). "Not everyone who applies will receive assistance," said Edward J. McDonough, spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. "It's not automatic."

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski called the federal government's decision "a long-awaited gift this holiday season."

Sen. Ben Cardin said: "The damage has been too great to expect the locals to handle alone and the federal government had to step in to help. Together, we also will continue to seek the needed assistance for other communities still struggling in their recovery efforts."

Homes in the four Lower Shore counties suffered flood damage when Sandy blew through the state. Blizzard conditions from a separate storm system dumped more than 2 feet of snow in parts of Western Maryland.

According to members of the congressional delegation, 340 homes had "major damage" and 13 were "completely destroyed."

"Some of these counties have the highest rates of poverty in our state," O'Malley wrote in a letter that was signed by all eight members of the delegation. "This is a dire situation in need of swift resolution."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad