Obama grants Malloy’s request for emergency aid

Washington — Even before Hurricane Sandy spilled a drop of rain on Connecticut, President Obama granted Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s request emergency help late Sunday.

However, he stopped short of granting Malloy’s request for 100 percent reimbursement of the cost of debris-removal and repairs of public roads and buildings.

In a lengthy letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Malloy asked the president to declare a pre-landfall emergency in the state that would usher in a variety of federal help, including supplies like water, food and blankets and immediate aid in debris removal.

Malloy, one of several governors who spoke to Obama on a conference call Sunday afternoon, also told FEMA he may need search and rescue resources, emergency communications equipment, medical support, mass care and sheltering support, assistance from the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal help.

“Given the wind, coastal surge and flooding impacts on the state’s communities, Sandy threatens destruction at the level of a major disaster,” Malloy wrote.

The Malloy administration announced late Sunday that the request was granted.

“I would like to thank President Obama for understanding the necessity of declaring an emergency in our state in advance of the storm,” Malloy said. “As each forecast has come in, it’s become more and more clear that this storm will have a major impact on Connecticut. We cannot wait until after it hits to begin the process of seeking emergency assistance.”

Although current law allows the federal government to pay for 75 percent of debris removal, which could cost millions of dollars, and other emergency services, Malloy asked for 100 percent reimbursement from Washington. But that was denied.

“We anticipate that pre-landfall activities will further overwhelm the resources of the state,” Malloy wrote.

He estimated activating 400 to 1,500 National Guardsmen would cost between $100,000 to $350,000 a day.

He also told FEMA the state has purchased 800,000 sandbags, leased forklifts and other equipment and has enough food to feed evacuees for three days.

Malloy also wrote that the evacuation of more than 360,000 people is undermway in Fairfield, New Haven, and in Middlesex and New London counties and that the state emergency operations center has been activated.

Federal law was changed after Hurricane Katrina wreaked so much damage on the Gulf Coast in 2005 to allow the federal government to pre-position supplies and allow local governments to enter into contracts with debris removal companies before a disaster hit.

“It allows FEMA to be much more flexible,” said an agency spokesman.

A full torrent of federal aid, which would include housing assistance for displaced people and low-interest loans to small businesses, would be released after Sandy hits and the governor’s request to Obama to declare the state a major federal disaster area is approved.