Eleven months after last June’s tornadoes tore through Western Massachusetts, the Patrick-Murray Administration announced an additional $520,000 in recovery assistance to fund a recovery manager in Monson and homeowner repairs throughout affected communities. Springfield Partners for Community Action will also receive $30,000 to provide additional funding for their Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
Monson’s disaster recovery manager will receive $65,000 to identify local needs and opportunities while coordinating state, federal and non-profit assistance opportunities. Additionally, $425,000 will be administered by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) to individual homeowners struggling to pay for repairs due to being under-insured, lack of insurance, or lack of FEMA or other monetary assistance.
Rebuilding homes as is, with updated building codes and including other outdoor structures, such as garages, are sometimes not covered by insurance companies, according to James Mazik, deputy director of operations at PVPC. Mazik says the program will implement a limit of $7,500 per unit, with an additional process of obtaining up to $15,000 per unit.
“[The program] is geared to owner-occupied residents, based a little on medium income, but there’s other guidelines to ensure equal distribution across affected communities,” Mazik said.
Mazik emphasizes the importance of fairly distributing funds to the 19 affected communities, inlcluding Westfield, West Springfield, Springfield, Wilbraham, Monson, Sturbridge and Palmer. He believes the PVPC will modify rules to one of their existing programs that adapts to regulations and restrictions set by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
“It’s great to get the money but there isn’t a lot,” Mazik said.
“If you do the math you’re talking 40-50 units over nine communities, that could be 5 property owners per [affected] community. It’s not a lot but it’s better than nothing.”
The PVPC believes the program can begin implementation within 30 days of receiving a contract with the full terms and conditions from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
Mary-Leah Assad, the Communications Specialist at DHCD, says the contract will be emailed to the PVPC on Wednesday. The town of Monson will also begin the process of hiring a disaster recovery manager.
“The Monson position came up organically through our conversations with the town manager and residents,” Assad said.
“There won’t be a similar position in Springfield because they have Develop Springfield leading recovery efforts and they are responsible for the same duties that the disaster recovery manager will have.”
Springfield’s final Master Plan was released on April 26, a month shy of the anniversary of the tornadoes. DevelopSpringfield, a non-profit organization leading the Rebuild Springfield initiative, will begin taking the steps outlined in their plan, according to Nick Fyntrilakis, chairman of the group’s board of directors.
“Implementation is the next critical step in the process,” Fyntrilakis said in a recent press release. “DevelopSpringfield will quarterback the Master Plan in partnership with the Springfield Redevelopment Authority, the City and key stakeholders and the community at large.”
The plan could take three to five years and will likely require hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, according to Gerald W. Hayes, co-chairman of the Rebuild Springfield effort.
The plan is dependent on federal disaster aid, state assistance and private contributions. So far, Springfield has received only $5.3 million from the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), less than ten percent of the $57 million they are expected to pay as part of the disaster declaration’s 75 percent reimbursement. Springfield currently has 39 active FEMA applications, with active project worksheets totaling $22.9 million.
Rachel Roberts can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @relroberts
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About the authors
Students in Steve Fox's Investigative Journalism & the Web class at UMass-Amherst have teamed up with the Globe to take a close-up look at the painful process of rebuilding from the June 2011 tornadoes that killed four and devastated communities in the Springfield area. Their work will also appear in the Boston Globe. Steve joined the journalism faculty at UMass-Amherst in 2007 and has 25 years of experience as an editor and reporter for print and online publications, including 10 as an editor at The Washington Post's award-winning website.