Parishes get federal cleanup funds

Jefferson Parish is getting $4.5 million in federal money to help with Hurricane Isaac cleanup costs, and Plaquemines Parish will get $13.7 million to offset the cost of removing 15,480 cubic yards of storm debris that was choking a major drainage canal.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Joint Field Office in Baton Rouge announced the grants on Thursday. The money for Jefferson Parish is part of $14.3 million in total public assistance recovery funds that have been approved for applicants in Jefferson Parish since the storm. In Plaquemines Parish the total stands at $73.2 million since Isaac struck.

Statewide, public assistance grants have totaled $171.2 million.

In Jefferson Parish, the grant will help reimburse the parish for removing and disposing of debris from public rights of way, including more than 203,00 cubic yards of vegetative debris and nearly 54,400 cubic yards of construction and demolition debris.

Jefferson Parish Finance Director Timothy Palmatier said the FEMA reimbursement is great news for the parish’s bottom line which took the hit for the $6 million in debris removal costs associated with the storm. Palmatier said that although the parish still responsible for about $1.5 million in unexpected costs, that’s an improvement.

“It’s crucial. It’s crucial to our budget,” Palmatier said.

He noted that the parish hasn’t finished all of its debris removal with work continuing in the Lafitte, Barataria and Crown Point areas. In addition, Jefferson Parish is seeking reimbursement for overtime expenditures, drainage, sewerage and water costs.

Palmatier didn’t know when FEMA will actually make the payments and noted that the process can be lengthy. Several of the parish’s municipalities didn’t receive payments associated with Hurricane’s Gustav and Ike until years after the events. However, Palmatier said he’s confident that the money will be received at some point in 2013.

The grant covers the federal share of the parish’s eligible costs, and under a cost-sharing program FEMA reimburses the state for 75 percent of the total costs.

Gerard M. Stolar, FEMA’s federal coordinating officier, said in a prepared statement that the funds for Plaquemines Parish will help “restore functionality to the drainage system and therefore eliminate a threat to public health and safety.’’