In a letter Friday, Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Ben Cardin asked FEMA administrator Craig Fugate to "exercise flexibility" in determining whether residents in Somerset, Worcester and Dorchester counties should be eligible to apply for federal housing aid.
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials determined this week that the damage in Maryland from the Oct. 29 storm was not extensive enough to justify assistance for several hundred families whose homes were affected. Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration has vowed to appeal that decision.
"There are more resources required — particularly on the Lower Eastern Shore — where there are serious and significant unmet needs," the senators, both Maryland Democrats, wrote. "This region is already facing tough economic times."
State officials, meanwhile, are reassessing the storm's impact as they prepare the appeal. The Maryland Emergency Management Agency activated a toll-free telephone number Friday that residents may use to report damage to their property. Officials hope that a more thorough accounting of the storm's impact will help the state meet damage thresholds required for the assistance.
They also added another county — Wicomico — to the list for which they are seeking damage reports.
"There is no guarantee that the individual assistance denial will be reversed, but we are making every effort to gather enough information to show the scope of damages in these counties," the state agency wrote in its announcement.
It is not clear how much flexibility FEMA has in reviewing the appeal. The agency uses a formula that is based partly on the extent of damage but also on the state's capacity to help its residents absent federal involvement. The final decision rests with the White House.
Minnesota and Illinois faced similar denials this year. Both lost their appeals.
To report damage
Maryland officials are asking residents of Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties who sustained damage to their home or business during Sandy to contact the Maryland Department of Human Resources relief hot line at 888-756-7836.