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Virginia gov. appeals FEMA denial of quake aid

Virginia gov. appeals FEMA denial of quake aid

October 29th, 2011 by BOB LEWIS, AP Political Writer in News

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Gov. Bob McDonnell asked President Barack Obama on Friday to reconsider the Federal Emergency Management Agency's decision to deny aid to Virginia for the August earthquake that rattled the East Coast and caused substantial damage at its epicenter.

In a 13-page letter to Obama and 34 pages of documentation and attachments, McDonnell says state government alone can't address seven disasters since April, including the quake, Hurricane Irene and three deadly spring tornadoes.

In appealing again for aid to Louisa County, the quake's epicenter, McDonnell said damage exceeds $22 million, more than double the $9 million estimate the state cited in its initial September aid request.

"Louisa County clearly needs federal assistance in order to recover from the strongest earthquake to impact Virginia in over a century," McDonnell, a Republican, wrote to the Democratic president.

"Disaster relief is a proper responsibility of the federal government. Volunteer groups are ill-equipped to repair earthquake damage and while state and local officials are doing everything they can, federal assistance is necessary in ensuring that affected Virginians are able to repair their homes and get back on their feet," he wrote.

McDonnell said 1,404 Louisa homes were damaged, 400 more than the earlier request, with two destroyed and 80 sustaining major damage. He also said that continued inspections have turned up evidence that aftershocks have worsened the original quake damage.

Besides toppled brick walls and chimneys - some of it to homes that predate the Revolutionary War - the most serious damage and expensive damage has been to foundations, visible only to engineers inspecting crawlspaces and basements, according to the documents.

Besides the charts and spreadsheets, the packet McDonnell forwarded to the White House also contains a two-page letter in which both of Virginia's Democratic U.S. senators and all of its 11 U.S. House members - including GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor - join in McDonnell's appeal.

"Given how rare this type of earthquake event has been in this area, the overwhelming majority of residents in this community lack earthquake insurance protection," the joint congressional letter said.

McDonnell has also applied separately last week for nearly $64 million in public aid to local governments, particularly for destruction to Louisa's public schools. Louisa High School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary School were so heavily damaged that they are closed indefinitely, McDonnell said.

The written appeal came just eight days after McDonnell met face-to-face with Obama before the president's speech in Hampton promoting legislation to establish preferential hiring for military veterans, part of a three-day campaign-style bus tour promoting his jobs bill in North Carolina and Virginia.