Begich Uses Clout to Get Disaster Funding For Galena Recovery Efforts
FEMA Will Pay to Rebuild with Seldom-Used Construction Funding Program
After months of fighting for increased attention for housing following last year’s flooding in Galena, U.S. Senator Mark Begich welcomed news this week that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved the State’s request for construction assistance. The announcement of this new housing authority comes at a critical time, as the spring and summer will provide a long-awaited opportunity for new construction to start.
“The people of Galena experienced a devastating disaster that displaced families, destroyed homes and interrupted an entire village’s economy and way of life,” said Begich. “I saw the damage firsthand when I visited Galena last summer. I pushed for a disaster declaration and to accelerate the FEMA process to approve assistance for victims. I’m glad to hear that families in Galena have some good news and can start planning for construction and repairs this spring.”
Last year’s flooding along the Yukon River inundated the City of Galena. Approximately 90 percent of the village structures were damaged or destroyed and the city was in dire need of help. FEMA has been supporting the State in their efforts to provide recovery assistance since the federal declaration of Major Disaster in June 2013.
Permanent Housing Construction (PHC), a program rarely used by the Agency, is only available to insular areas or locations where no alternative housing resources are available. This program is critical for communities in Alaska where housing options are limited and construction can be hindered by transportation challenges and increased costs for resources. Under PHC, homeowners can either receive money for construction directly or elect to have FEMA provide direct assistance in constructing a new home. The direct assistance option covers all costs, including shipping, which can be a huge burden for those in rural areas along the Yukon.
Senator Begich wrote a letter to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate following the Galena disaster urging a disaster declaration be made quickly. He also visited Galena to see the devastation first hand. Through his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee with jurisdiction over FEMA, he spent the summer and fall pressuring FEMA officials for swift action and additional resources to address the unique challenges of disaster response and recovery in the Arctic. Recently, at Senator Begich’s invitation, Fugate visited Alaska to begin a dialogue that will benefit all Alaskan communities threatened by disaster.