Emergency fund needs help, Gov. Fallin says
Money in the fund is used to reimburse counties, cities and other local entities for infrastructure damage that occurred during a presidential disaster declaration.
Gov. Mary Fallin said Monday she will call on legislators to replenish a fund so cities, towns and counties, along with electric cooperatives, may be reimbursed for responding to extreme weather events.
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The weather conditions include this summer's drought and extended period of triple-digit temperatures, which have sparked numerous wildfires across the state.
Fallin said the state has failed to pay more than $36 million in bills to cities, counties and electric cooperatives for costs related to tornadoes, fires and ice storms. The state has not reimbursed any local entities for disasters that have occurred since Jan. 1, 2007.
About $16 million is owed to cities and counties and about $20 million is owed to various electric cooperatives, Fallin said. State Emergency Management Department Director Albert Ashwood said cities and towns would be paid first when money is available.
The state's emergency fund was created in 1963 to help Oklahoma respond to disasters. It has a balance of $944.
When a presidential disaster declaration is issued, the federal government pays 75 percent of the reimbursement costs to counties, municipalities, rural electric cooperatives, rural water districts and other entities for infrastructure damage.
The local entities pay 12.5 percent, and the state is required to pay the remaining 12.5 percent, with that money to come out of the emergency fund.
Because the state hasn't paid any reimbursements since 2007, many of the local entities have had to pay the cost themselves.
“It is not fair for the state of Oklahoma to ignore its obligations when towns and cities are struggling to find the money to pay for firefighters, police and basic services,” Fallin said. “That's why I'm calling on our legislators to make replenishing the state emergency fund a priority next year.”
Ashwood said the state emergency fund was caught up reimbursing cities and towns and “did not owe a penny to anyone” on Jan. 1, 2007. But since then Oklahoma has had an “exceptional number” of disasters, with the state receiving 23 presidential disaster declarations and five presidential emergency declarations, he said.