State Disaster Assistance Program. The state disaster assistance program, created in 2005 Act 269, makes payments to local units of government and retail electric cooperatives for governmental costs, such as debris clearance, protective measures, and damage to roads and bridges, incurred as the result of a "major catastrophe." A major catastrophe is defined as a disaster, including a drought, flood, high wind, hurricane, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or tornado, that resulted in the Governor requesting a presidential declaration of a major disaster under federal law. In 2021-22, for example, DMA provided assistance for flooding and severe thunderstorms events in Clark, Manitowoc, and Wood Counties, and for flooding, tornado, wind damage, and severe thunderstorm events in east central Wisconsin, southeastern Wisconsin, southwestern Wisconsin, and west central Wisconsin. Under administrative rule, local governmental units may be reimbursed if the following eligibility criteria are satisfied: (a) the local governmental unit has suffered a "major catastrophe"; (b) a disaster or emergency declaration was issued by the local governmental unit or the state during the event; (c) the damages suffered and eligible costs incurred are the direct result of the event; (d) federal disaster assistance is not available because the Governor's request that the President declare the catastrophe a major disaster has been denied or no federal assistance is requested because the event does not meet the per capita impact indicator issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); (e) at least one local governmental unit or a tribal governmental unit within the county has incurred public assistance costs that exceed the per capita impact indicator under the public assistance program guidelines issued by FEMA; and (f) the local governmental unit will contribute at least 30% of the total amount of eligible costs incurred from other funding sources.And the amount set aside to pay disasters in the 2021-22 fiscal year hasn't been enough to cover the amount of claims that local governments have had.
The Department's request for 2021-22 is identified in Table 4. Through April 11, 2022, the disaster assistance program had expenditures of $983,800, pending claims of $147,500, claims under review with payment anticipated of $106,700, and an available balance of $2,500. Based on initial damage estimates from counties that have not yet submitted applications, the Department estimates that it will receive $690,300 in additional claims this fiscal year. In addition, DMA has received a preliminary estimate resulting from March, 2022, ice damage in Marinette County ($94,000) and projects that $500,000 a year in new claims may occur in 2021-22 and 2022-23 based on prior claims activities.
The DOT disaster damage aid program, which aids local governments for road-related disaster costs, receives funding through two sum-sufficient appropriations: a transportation fund-supported (SEG) appropriation and a general fund-supported (GPR) appropriation. The SEG-supported appropriation is estimated at $1.0 million each year. Expenditures from the SEG-supported appropriation may not exceed $1.0 million for a single disaster without the Governor's approval. Each year, individual disasters with road damages below this $1.0 million threshold are also paid with SEG. If the expenditures for smaller disasters collectively exceed the estimated amount, the program's sum-sufficient appropriation draws on the transportation fund to cover costs. For individual disasters exceeding $1.0 million, the Governor may approve the transfer of GPR to the transportation fund for the costs exceeding the $1.0 million threshold. These GPR transfers may only be made in the second fiscal year of each biennium. In 2020-21, no funds were transferred from the disaster damage-related, GPR appropriation to the transportation fund.There also can be funding for disasters through the federal FEMA program, which can take the strain off of the state for picking up the costs associated with disasters.
Additionally, funding from FEMA may reduce the amount of repairs funded by DMA. FEMA's public assistance program provides reimbursement for projects submitted by counties, cities, townships, and not-for-profit organizations for events that receive a federal disaster declaration. Eligible projects include repairs to roads and bridges and costs for debris removal. Under the program, FEMA provides 75% reimbursement of eligible costs, while the state and local agencies share the remaining 25% equally.There have been no presidential disaster declarations for Wisconsin since snowstorms hit the state in early 2020, but FEMA is still paying claims related to historic rainstorms in the northern and western parts of the state in 2018 and 2019.