After reversing a previous decision on aid to individuals and businesses related to severe storms and flooding last September, the federal government on May 28 reaffirmed its denial of aid to the state and municipalities.

In a letter to Gov. Maura Healey, the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied an appeal for aid to repair damage to public infrastructure, such as washed-out roads, sinkholes and culverts. The letter said the damages were “not of such severity and magnitude as to warrant the designation of Public Assistance.”

The city of Leominster, among the hardest hit by the storms last fall, has documented $30 million in flood damage to municipal property. Mayor Dean Mazzarella said that the storm dumped between 9 and 11 inches of rain in as few as four hours in much of his city.

“This is devastating news,” Mazzarella said in a prepared statement. “From Sept. 12 on, our team worked night and day to try to secure this declaration.”

He said the city hired engineers and consultants to support its damage claims. The city still has 75 damaged sites, he said, and will need to prioritize their repair over other planned projects.

This spring, Healey and the state’s congressional delegation had appealed FEMA’s earlier denial of disaster assistance, and on May 15, President Joe Biden declared that Individual Assistance will be available to homeowners, renters and businesses in two Massachusetts counties — Bristol and Worcester — affected by the storms.

Healey had formally requested the major disaster declaration last December, seeking federal public and individual assistance for affected areas in Bristol, Hampden and Worcester counties. FEMA denied the requests in February, and Healey appealed FEMA’s denial in a March 11 letter to the president and FEMA Regional Administrator Lori Ehrlich. Healey said FEMA’s assessment of the state’s request failed to include certain identified costs, a summary of which she provided “for your reconsideration.”

“These storms were devastating for our communities,” she wrote in March. “Homes and businesses were destroyed, roadways and bridges were inaccessible, and some residents had to be evacuated. Six months later, they are still rebuilding. The state has done all that we can to support their recovery, but the needs far outpace our available resources.”

The governor cited dozens of damaged sites in Leominster, a Springfield water main break, and the “uniqueness of New England architecture” that makes buildings more vulnerable to flood damage.

On March 26, members of the state’s congressional delegation also wrote to President Biden and FEMA to support Healey’s appeal, saying it is “imperative that communities see strong partnership among federal, state, and local governments to deliver when residents need it most,” especially in the face of increasing climate change impacts.

In addition to Individual Assistance, Healey requested Public Assistance for Hampden and Worcester counties, which would provide reimbursement for eligible storm-related expenses incurred by state agencies and municipalities.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency had worked with local and federal officials at FEMA Region 1 to help communities assess potential reimbursable damage caused by the disaster, and the administration launched a website to centralize available resources for residents, businesses and communities.

The federal Individual Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster, according to a statement from the White House.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures for the entire Commonwealth.

President Biden said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the Commonwealth and warranted by the results of further damage assessments. Robert Fogel of FEMA has been appointed to coordinate federal recovery operations in the affected areas.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses last September in the designated areas can begin applying for federal assistance at, by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362), or by using the FEMA App. Those using a video relay service (VRS), captioned telephone service, or other relay services can give FEMA the number for that service.

For businesses, the U.S. Small Business Administration has issued a fact sheet on Business Physical Disaster Loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans available for Bristol and Worcester counties, as well as Economic Injury Disaster Loans only for Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Norfolk and Plymouth counties, related to the severe storms of Sept. 11-13, 2023. (Also available in Spanish.)

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