Lee County EMA asks FEMA for shelter funding

Updated: Jun. 26, 2019 at 5:30 PM EDT
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LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - Lee County’s Emergency Management Agency is trying to get FEMA funding for single-family storm shelters.

The shelter grant program gives storm survivors the chance to receive a 75 percent reimbursement to purchase a new storm shelter, the homeowner only has to pay the remaining 25 percent.

“We know that those grant funds are going to be available and so our director, through the Lee County Commission, applied for a letter of intent to apply for those grant funds,” said Lee County EMA Public Information Officer Rita Smith.

Smith says this is only the beginning of a long process, and while officials wish that the program could impact everyone, it will only be for people who meet specific criteria.

“It will be for those who lost family, who lost lives, people who lost their homes in the tornadoes, and then the third factor will be the 2018 vulnerability study that was done," said Smith. "It was completed before the tornado, identifying areas that are the most vulnerable in our county. Beauregard was one of those areas, Smiths Station was one of those areas, so we’re going to go right down the list.”

If you think you’ll qualify for funding, don’t be so quick to get started building your shelter. You have to be approved by FEMA first. Smith says if a shelter is constructed before being approved by FEMA, the resident will not be reimbursed.

“If you go out and dig any dirt where it’s going to be placed, you will not be eligible,” said Smith.

These shelters range between $3,000 and $6,000, and some Lee County residents say funding or not, it's worth the price tag.

“My son is in the process of building us one. I think it’d be a good investment for any family,” said Lee County resident Jane Lewis.

Anyone who thinks they meet the criteria, can start gathering things to make the application process easier.

“A copy of your land tax, your property tax, that has to go in your file. The lat and long of where you’re going to propose to put it, pictures of where you propose to put it," said Smith. “An estimate of what it’s gong to cost and pictures of the kind that you are going to have put in. A topo map, which is a topographical map.”

There will be an application process for federal funding after officials hear back from FEMA, but no applications are being accepted at this time.

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