DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has denied a major disaster declaration request by Texas for damage caused by the tornado outbreak in Dallas County in October 2019.
The Dallas area has been waiting months for millions of dollars in aid after the tornadoes ravaged through North Texas and destroyed many homes, businesses and schools.
In January, Dallas County leaders had hoped to qualify for the disaster aid due to uninsured losses sustained by the City of Dallas, Dallas County, and the Dallas Independent School District. However, after months of delays in waiting for FEMA funds, the state finally received its answer March 31st to a disaster declaration request.
“Based on our review of all the information available, it has been determined that the damage from this event was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments,” FEMA said in a letter to the state. “Accordingly, we have determined that supplemental federal assistance is not necessary.”
Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to appeal, along with the help from area leaders such as Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who previously sent a letter to FEMA alongside Sen. Ted Cruz to expedite its review of the tornado damage, said he spoke with Johnson about the denial and will be looking at ways to assist the city.
“I told him we’re not going to leave him hanging out there by himself or Dallas by itself. We’re going to be there and we will work our way through that because you’re right, it’s a huge blow to the finances of the city,” Cornyn told CBS 11 News.
When asked about a potential bill to provide extra funding to the city, Cornyn said: “I would say that’s one of the options on the table.”
FEMA is still looking to find out how much Dallas ISD’s insurer will reimburse the district for damages to school buildings.
Dallas ISD’s Chief of Financial Services Dwayne Thompson told CBS-11 News Tuesday afternoon that new information it received from the district’s insurer should help the area qualify for the FEMA aid.
Thompson said the district’s uninsured losses from the damaged Thomas Jefferson High School and Walnut Hill Elementary School will total $65.4 million.
That’s over the $38.4 million threshold needed to qualify for federal reimbursement.
The district’s insurer will reimburse the district $66.5 million for both schools.
The cost to rebuild both schools is $131.9 million.
The district sustained $17.3 million in uninsured losses after the tornado destroyed Cary Middle School.
That amount was included in the area’s initial request to FEMA for a disaster declaration but the agency ruled the area didn’t meet the threshold.