The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the support system for many after a disaster strikes, but this doesn’t apply for Community Associations. While FEMA steps in to clean up debris within an affected area, it will not support disaster recovery within Community Association gates. This puts the burden on the association residents. According to the Community Associations Institute, FEMA and many members of Congress do not understand that the local municipality may have mandated the developer privatize streets in the community, resulting in association residents bearing the financial, legal, and operational responsibility for maintaining and insuring the streets. The residents have to pay for the streets when their neighboring community may not, and FEMA often refuses to reimburse for debris removal following a disaster on these streets owned by the association. These residents pay the same local property and federal taxes as everyone else, but they are being penalized because their streets are “private.” The Disaster Assistance Equity Act is solving that inequality.
In the meantime, CAI provides managers and board members with preparation steps to take to see if their community may be eligible for post-storm recovery assistance:
- Verify your community’s eligibility for federal debris removal assistance by contacting your municipal government (county, city, township, etc.) and your local FEMA representative to request debris removal assistance for your community association.
- Verify your municipal officials understand how to obtain FEMA approval to remove disaster debris from your community:
- Ask that representatives of the municipality and FEMA view debris in the community
- Ask that the municipality declare debris to be a threat to public health and safety
- Ask that the municipality invoke any existing emergency authority to enter private land to respond to immediate threats to public health and safety
- FEMA may deny your request for debris removal services in your community association by classifying the association as a private community or business. If your community is denied federally-funded debris removal assistance, request an immediate review of the denial by regional FEMA officials and inform your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators of FEMA’s denial. Contact your member of Congress by clicking here.
- If FEMA denies your appeal and will not approve debris removal from community association streets, verify with county and FEMA officials that debris within the community may be moved lawfully by a private contractor to the closest public street or other designated location for removal by the county.
- Be patient.
- Visit fema.gov and www.caionline.org/communitypreparedness for updates.
Read the full Community Associations Institute article here. If you have any questions, please contact our office at 410-213-5600.