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Originally published March 25, 2014 at 7:22 PM | Page modified March 26, 2014 at 5:43 AM

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No financial aid with Obama’s declaration; Inslee might seek it

President Obama’s signing of an emergency declaration for the Snohomish County mudslide will not bring financial aid for victims. That would require a declaration of major disaster — something Gov. Jay Inslee would have to seek after assessing the full extent of the destruction.

Seattle Times Washington bureau

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WASHINGTON — President Obama’s Monday declaration of an emergency for the Snohomish County mudslide will not bring financial aid for the victims and their families.

Instead, the president’s signing paved the way for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide “boots on the ground” assistance, such as search and rescue, and communications.

But getting federal help to individuals with temporary housing and other expenses will require a presidential declaration of a major disaster.

That won’t happen until Gov. Jay Inslee makes the request, and after his administration has had a chance to assess the full scope of destruction.

Major disasters must be extensive enough that state and local governments can’t cope on their own, said Karina Shagren, spokeswoman for the Washington Military Department, the coordinating agency for emergency and disaster responses.

Shagren said the state is compiling a damage assessment, but has been hampered by the difficulty of recovery efforts and limited access to the mudslide zone.

A major-disaster declaration — typically granted for earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and tornadoes — requires at least $9 million in damage to public buildings and infrastructure.

The state could separately seek help with private damages, which do not need to meet a specific dollar threshold.

But the impact on the community must be severe enough, according to FEMA, that “effective response is beyond the capabilities” of state and local agencies.

Specific forms of financial aid to individuals differ from disaster to disaster, said Marybeth O’Leary, a regional FEMA spokeswoman in Bothell.

But they can include up to 18 months of housing and money for repairing and replacing homes. Grants for medical and funeral expenses and lost property are also available, as are low-interest loans for business losses and uninsured property and vehicles.

Last December, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence requested FEMA’s assistance with $7.4 million in private losses after November storms and tornadoes destroyed 86 homes and severely damaged 226 others.

The aid was denied by officials who ruled the damage was not severe enough.

Kyung Song: 202-383-6108 or Twitter: @KyungMSong

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