CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Georgia Emergency Mangement Agency reimbursed Chatham County $2.4 million dollars Wednesday for Hurricane Matthew debris removal.
"When we go out and we hire debris removal, they send the county the invoice," said County Commission Chairman Al Scott. "They don't' send them to GEMA or FEMA, and we have to pay them within a reasonable amount of time."
16 months after Hurricane Matthew, the county is almost completely repaid. '
"You have to be patient in this business," Scott said laughing.
In total, the county fronted $30.5 million in hurricane recovery costs. It will receive about $26.1 million total from the state and federal government, and Chatham County taxpayers will cover about $3.9 million in matching funds.
"Matthew was really important to get reimbursed when you start talking you're out of pocket $30 million dollars," Scott said.
CEMA Director Dennis Jones agreed and noted it is essential to replenish the county's emergency fund, which was used to fund Hurricane Matthew recovery.
"It's just not practical for the county to be able to fund a $30 million storm," Jones said. "So we pay those expenses. We pay those vendors in order to get our community back whole. Then, the state and the federal government comes in, and they help us with getting our funds back whole."
Tom McCool, federal coordinating officer with FEMA, said cities and counties across the state requested $124 million in public assistance after Hurricane Matthew, and $60 million came from Savannah and Chatham County.
Scott said reimbursements are provided on a sliding scale, and the faster a county or city submits its paperwork, the more money it is likely to receive. McCool said Chatham County was the first in the state to submit the paperwork, despite the extensive damage.
"We were working feverishly to do it because it meant money," Scott said.
He said about 85 percent of county costs are being reimbursed, and he hopes the same is true for Hurricane Irma.
McCool also said many people are still waiting for individual assistance. He said it is an 18-month process, so many are now waiting for reimbursements from both Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Irma.
"18 months can wear on you your patience, but that's what it takes," Scott said.
Scott said the county is still waiting on one last $1.1 million payment for physical repair costs to be completely reimbursed for Hurricane Matthew.