Leominster Denied FEMA Funds For September Storm Damage

Photo: Courtesy of the City of Leominster

LEOMINSTER, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — The City of Leominster has been denied federal funds to perform extensive repairs on city property that was damaged in a storm last year.

The central Massachusetts city applied for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after suffering around $30 million in public property damage from the Sept. 11, 2023 storm.

The storm brought 10 inches of rain in four hours to the city of 43,000 people, causing damage to public and private property across Leominster.

The Healey-Driscoll administration filed a request for a federal disaster declaration and for Individual and Public Assistance in December.

Parts of the disaster relief request were denied in February, including funding to Leominster to help the city and local residents repair the storm damage.

Gov. Maura Healey appealed this decision in March, and in May Individual Assistance was approved for Bristol and Worcester Counties.

However, Public Assistance remained under review until the appeal was officially denied on Tuesday.

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“This is devastating news. Leominster is a city that is and will continue to be aggressive about maintaining our infrastructure. This 1000-year storm destroyed one month old sidewalks, freshly paved and striped roads, and even a recently replaced culvert. It’s heartbreaking,” said Mayor Dean Mazzarella in a press release on Wednesday.

“We spent $2 million of city money just on temporary repairs to get our city open again.”

Mazzarella explained how the city tried to secure the disaster declaration and FEMA funding.

“From September 12 on, our team worked night and day to try to secure this declaration. We hired engineers to certify our data, we worked with state agencies to capture their costs, and we hired a consulting firm specializing in FEMA disaster declarations to help. In the end, we are left with 75 damaged sites – some costing multi-millions each to repair.”

Mazzarella said that the city doesn’t “have the discretionary dollars to go out and do these projects on our own.”

Photo: Shari Small/WBZ NewsRadio

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However, Mazzarella shared how he is grateful that homeowners and businesses are receiving FEMA funding.

“Many people in our community were left struggling to repair sudden and unexpected damage. On the public infrastructure side, I can assure you that our team will continue our hard work to secure funding to make our community whole again,” he said.

FEMA spokesperson Kim Fuller explained that they “have already dispersed about $1.2 million to both Leominster and North Attleborough, so people already have money in their bank accounts.”

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“I have a large building and it partially collapsed into the brook,” said one business owner seeking help from FEMA at Leominster City Hall after his commercial building was damaged in the September storms.

“FEMA referred me to the SBA [Small Business Association] Disaster Loan Assistance Program, and that seems to be very helpful,” he explained.

Although businesses and homeowners can receive disaster funding from FEMA, the City of Leominster now has to look elsewhere for support in repairing public property damage.

“I think for everyone, myself included, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster,” said Mazzarella.

When he was asked if he thought FEMA made the wrong decision, Mazzarella said yes. “This wasn’t the biggest ask, but it was certainly an important ask.”

He added, “We’re disappointed,” but moving forward, the city will be focused on “applying for various grants and assistance through the state and federal government that might come project by project.”

WBZ NewsRadio's Shari Small (@ShariSmallNews) reports.

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