What Utah can expect from federal funding after a disaster like Ian

Oct 5, 2022, 7:00 AM
Utah disaster funding earthquake study...
FILE: Caution tape surrounds the VFW building on Magna’s Main Street on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, following a 5.7 magnitude earthquake that was centered near the city on March 18. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)
(Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Floridians impacted by Hurricane Ian are starting the process of rebuilding, and some are asking when federal monies will arrive.

These are the times, after disasters like hurricanes, when states and individuals look to the federal government for help. What does that process look like? KSL NewsRadio hosts Dave and Dujanovic spoke with Janna Wilkinson, Resilience Bureau Chief with the Utah Division of Emergency Management, to get an idea.


And for reference, Wilkinson used one of Utah’s most recent disasters, the 5.7 earthquake that hit near Magna on March 17, 2020.

“For public assistance, we’re going to have around $34 million that goes out,” Wilkinson said. “For individual assistance, the program that helps residents and homeowners, we had just under $1 million.” That $1 million was split between around 1,200 applicants.

Wilkinson said it’s hard to compare hurricanes and earthquakes, but the process of distributing federal help is similar. 

“With earthquake damage, you’re mostly looking at foundation issues,” she said. “Cracks in walls, doorways, foundations. With brick homes there were (damaged) chimneys.”

Another difference is finding the damage done by an earthquake.

“The damages tend to change as things settle over time,” she said. But for the most part, things Utahns needed to be addressed by the government included stability and foundation issues, collapsed chimneys, and porches that need to be stabilized.

Utah disaster funding from the feds = some, not all

“If I break down 12-hundred applicants and a million dollars,” said KSL NewsRadio host Debbie Dujanovic, “that’s an average of $833 per person. That just does not sound adequate enough to cover a tiny repair.”

Wilkinson agreed and offered this reminder.

“I think one thing that is a misconception, and I’m not justifying this, but it is difficult in government programs to be able to cover the cost of everything.”

She said that FEMA has limited money and strict parameters dictating what they provide.

“They usually provide funding to make things safe and sanitary.  To secure your home, to make sure you can get rental assistance.”

“If you had a chandelier that broke, you’re going to get funding to buy a basic light fixture,” Wilkinson said.

The message for those in an area prone to natural disasters? FEMA will do what they can to make you and your home safe. But it will take some time.

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What Utah can expect from federal funding after a disaster like Ian