Natural disasters and severe weather have caused immense damage to communities across the U.S. this year. Wildfires in California have already burned nearly 1.8 million acres in 2021 as firefighters struggle to contain numerous blazes, including the Caldor Fire near Lake Tahoe. This week, Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana as a category 4 storm, bringing high winds and flooding to many parts of the state. Ida’s remnants also caused flooding and tornadoes across several Mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S. states.

Cleanup and rebuilding will be the primary focus for community associations affected by these disasters. There are steps community managers and boards should take now to increase the possibility of receiving assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for debris removal immediately following a presidentially declared emergency.

If your community owns its roads, they are considered private. FEMA has specific requirements for removing debris from private roads. Debris must be removed by your local municipality; FEMA will not reimburse the community association for debris removal.

If your community association did not submit a right of entry indemnification form prior to the natural disaster, follow these steps before hiring a contractor to remove debris:

  1. Contact your local municipality as soon as possible and provide them with an example of a resolution the locality may pass to meet the legal obligation of removing debris, and a completed right of entry indemnification form, which FEMA requires for reimbursements.
  2. Wait for your locality to remove debris since only localities can be reimbursed by FEMA. The community association will not be reimbursed by FEMA for debris removal.
  3. Only hire a private contactor if you are denied assistance by FEMA.

Debris removal costs can become a financial burden for a community association. CAI believes that all community association residents, as taxpayers, have the right to benefit from federal disaster response, recovery, and mitigation resources. CAI continues to advocate for closer coordination between community associations and FEMA to ensure community association interests are reflected in the design of federal disaster mitigation grants.

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