(State House News Service) — President Obama on Monday signed off on federal aid and a disaster declaration for Massachusetts, but stopped short of committing to the snow aid relief levels sought by Gov. Charlie Baker.
Baker stepped off a Washington D.C. shuttle Monday evening with bad news: Obama had only granted emergency reimbursements for work and damage accrued during the first heavy snowfall of the season on January 26 and 27. Baker’s requested relief for costly storms that spanned almost one month and dumped record snow totals.
Baker traveled to the capital on Monday to lobby for federal disaster aid, saying it was needed after four snowstorms battered Massachusetts. He met with Vice President Joe Biden at the White House and with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials.
“I’m disappointed that they limited the declaration to basically the contours of the first storm, but they made it clear to us that they’d also be willing to engage in a discussion about damage that was incurred as a consequence of either the first or subsequent storms over the 28-day period,” Baker told reporters at Logan Airport.
Baker said his personal trip to Washington may have motivated the White House to promptly make their decision Monday.
“I don’t think it had much impact on the nature of the answer one way or the other. If my going down there meant that today was going to be the day that we’re going to get an answer then the good news is we get to move forward from this point forward and start to collect the data and documentation associated with getting reimbursed,” Baker said.
The federal funding will be available to state, tribal and eligible local governments for emergency work, repair or replacement of facilities damaged by a severe winter storm, snowstorm and flooding in ten counties, according to the White House. The counties are Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Essex, Middlesex, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, and Worcester.
“We were pursuing a more aggressive and somewhat unusual request, but the good news here is that we have an opportunity to get started on a declaration and we’re going to do that,” Baker said.
Mark Landry will serve as the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the designated areas, the White House said.