Federal government denies disaster Baltimore riot aid again

The federal government has rejected an appeal from the state for disaster aid, leaving in place an earlier decision denying millions of dollars to help pay for costs associated with rioting that broke out after the death of Freddie Gray.

A letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency dated Wednesday said that the agency "reaffirms" its decision that federal assistance "is not appropriate for this event."


"I must inform you that your appeal for a major disaster declaration is denied," wrote FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate.

FEMA first told Gov. Larry Hogan in a June 12 letter that aid was not appropriate for costs associated with rioting, prompting the governor to appeal the ruling.


A disaster declaration from FEMA would have allowed public agencies in the state and city to recover 75 percent of eligible costs.

The state initially requested $19.4 million to cover riot responses by emergency personnel and for damage to buildings and equipment between April 25 and May 1.

Hogan criticized FEMA's decision, saying "it was just wrong," and calling the riots the worst violence the city had seen since 1968. He noted that 170 police and firefighters were injured and the city was in flames. More than 400 businesses were damaged.

Hogan called in the National Guard to restore order, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake instituted the curfew.

"I'm disgusted and outraged by the decision by the Obama administration, quite frankly," Hogan said. "I have no idea how they could make a decision like that. ... What could possibly be an emergency if that riot in Baltimore wasn't?"

The city put aside $20 million from its rainy-day fund but needs federal aid to help pay that back, said city spokesman Howard Libit.

Rawlings-Blake said her administration will see if there is other federal funding or aid the city can tap.

"The mayor is obviously disappointed in the denial of the state appeal," Libit said. "We are going to work with our federal delegation and the Obama administration to look at other ways the federal government may be able to help."

Members of the congressional delegation sent a letter to FEMA in support of the disaster assisance.

Sen. Ben Cardin said Thursday that FEMA's decision was out of line with other federal agencies that have provided assistance since the riots in April, including the departments of Labor, Education, Interior, Agriculture, Small Business, Health and Human Services andCommerce, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and others. He pointed out that other cities that experienced riots and other unrest received disaster declarations from FEMA.

"I will continue to support Governor Hogan and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in their combined efforts to focus more federal resources on Baltimore and our neighborhoods in need," Cardin said.

Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in Baltimore police custody on April 12 and died a week later. His death sparked mass protests against police brutality, with the worst rioting and looting happening hours after Gray's funeral April 27.


Six police officers have been charged in Gray's arrest and death, with charges ranging from second-degree murder to assault and misconduct in office. All have pleaded not guilty and are set to go to trial in October.

Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.


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