FEMA funds in one Region 8 county put on hold

WYNNE, AR (KAIT) – Cross County Judge Jack Caubble told Region 8 News Thursday he's preparing to operate the county road department without the assistance of approximately $700,000 in FEMA money over the next few months.

Caubble said he received an email Wednesday from the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, which explained federal funding for "permanent work projects" would not be available until congressional appropriations are made.

"They just said some of the needs that have come up in the last few days have caused this," said Caubble.

Region 8 News reached out to ADEM Thursday afternoon. Renee Preslar said a letter was sent to all county judges in Arkansas, making them aware of FEMA's situation.

"In Cross County, we had a lot of trees blown down over roads that we have to get off of roads," said Caubble. "We've had a lot of flooding and on the hills, especially on Crowley's Ridge, it's been really bad on the roads there. It washed out some of them across two feet deep, washed all of our gravel."

Caubble said he has been approved for somewhere around $500,000 to $700,000 in public assistance by FEMA.

"It's just an estimate from me," said Caubble. "I think the federal government has basically just run out on money and now we're going to take care of our roads, and get them back passable," said Caubble.

According to the email obtained by Region 8 News, Caubble received the information from the ADEM Recovery Branch. In the email, it explained FEMA informed ADEM that "effective August 27, 2011, the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) is restricted to only Immediate Needs Funding."

"The only thing is going to be some immediate needs, which we've already completed," said Caubble. "We had to replace them (culverts) and the roads are having to be completely, a new road basically built."

The email indicated funding is being authorized for the Individual Assistance program and some emergency projects in the Public Assistance program. The email also stated funding is being delayed, not eliminated. Once money becomes available, the measure will be lifted.

"It really helps us to keep going and knowing this now, it kind of helps to plan. Hey, you've got to go with what you've got," said Caubble. "We pay as we go with the county. We have cut back on our number of employees. We're doing more with less."

Caubble said some equipment has been put away to save money on certain projects. He said it's vitally important to save where possible.

"We're operating on a 1996 budget with the road department, which I think it was $1.2 million dollars," said Caubble. "We can match with our labor and equipment that we use. We can match those funds."

The email indicated a similar situation has happened in the past. In 2010, the email stated, projects were delayed until new appropriations came through.

Poinsett County Judge Charles Nix told Region 8 News the delay is nothing out of the ordinary. He said while it may be a while for counties to receive assistance, the money will eventually come. He said Poinsett County is waiting on approximately $100,000 for flood recovery. He said out-of-pocket expenses were minimal.

"They told us to turn in all the paperwork, get everything signed and that way if the money does come available, we'll be in line for it," said Caubble.

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