CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For the counties affected by the Elk River chemical spill to be eligible for relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin would need to submit a request for major disaster recognition. President Obama would then have to sign off on the declaration before FEMA could provide aid.
According to FEMA spokesman Peter Herrick Jr., FEMA evaluates every disaster by the same criteria. He added that Tomblin has not yet filed a declaration, to his knowledge.
"One of the things we take into account is whether the response needed was beyond the capabilities of local or nonprofit agencies, and so that would impact the evaluation," Herrick said.
According to Herrick, every disaster FEMA intervenes in is "local first," but he could not say whether the agency's intervention indicated the disaster response was beyond local agencies' capabilities. In the event the spill were declared a major disaster, those affected would be eligible to apply for FEMA aid -- including unemployment aid -- with some restrictions, he said."One of the contingencies of the unemployment aid that FEMA does have is that a person needs to have gone through their state unemployment office to even be considered," he said. "We're not allowed to duplicate aid, so if they're granted that aid by the state, we would not be able to offer it to them."