Maryland officials had assumed that they could charge the federal government and FEMA–and thereby the US taxpayers–for tens of millions in damage caused by the rioting in Baltimore earlier this year.
But FEMA has officially balked at the demand denying the request to repay Maryland and the City of Baltimore for the cleanup costs.
In a letter sent on June 12 , Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator W. Craig Fugate told Maryland officials that federal aid for cleanup in the aftermath of the rioting “is not appropriate for this event.”
“Therefore, I must inform you that your request for a major disaster declaration is denied,” Fugate concluded.
City officials had estimated the costs of the riots to be around $30.5 million. Late in May, Baltimore’s finance director, Henry J. Raymond, had told the city, “Hopefully, with the FEMA reimbursement, it will reduce the financial stress that we’re under. In terms of the city’s overall revenue structure, we’re on firm footing and we’ll move forward.”
At that time Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also put in a request that FEMA reimburse their various governments for the destruction. Rawlings-Blake made herself infamous in the aftermath of the unrest for saying she wanted to give the rioters “the space to destroy if they want to.”
The type of assistance Gov. Hogan went on to request would have enabled public agencies to recover at least 75 percent of their costs.
Regardless, FEMA has denied the payout, leaving state and city officials shocked.
Maryland’s Democrat Senator Ben Cardin was also surprised by FEMA’s denial of the funds.
“The unrest we saw in Baltimore impacted the region far too much for local officials to handle on their own,” Cardin said in a statement on Friday. “At a time [when] Maryland’s budget is already stretched thin, the people of Baltimore need and deserve a strong federal partner.”
Officials are mulling whether they plan to file an appeal within the 30-day time limit.
The riots began late in April, after local man Freddie Gray died on April 19 from injuries sustained after he was arrested. Some 380 businesses were damaged or destroyed in the rioting.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com