U.S. Rep. Richard Neal announces $2.9 million in tornado aid for Monson
MONSON – The cost of clean-up from the June 1 tornado now stands at $6.4 million and U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, was in town Monday to let people know that help is on the way.
At the First Church of Monson, damaged when a cluster of tornadoes cut a 39-mile scar across the region and killed four people, Neal announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will give the town $2,887,541 for debris removal and disposal.
Town Administrator Gretchen E. Neggers said it will “pay for a good portion of the bill we already owe for vegetative tree removal,” which totals $4.3 million so far. The rest will be covered by temporary bonding with non-reimbursable interest, she said.
“We appreciate (Neal’s) support, but we’re still in a world of hurt here,” she said. “We still face some unique financial challenges.”
Other federal and state reimbursement requests are pending, she said, and the town is “aggressively” seeking more funds to cover tornado costs and recovery from the Oct. 29 nor’easter. Clean-up from the two storms is estimated to cost almost $10 million, close to half the town’s budget.
Total reimbursements will help determine if and how the already “pretty lean” town services are affected, Neggers said.
The $2.9 million FEMA reimbursement is the largest so far for the town.
In an interview after the announcement, Neal said the town can apply for even more help.
“What I think you want to do is see the good side of this,” Neal said. “It’s $2.9 million they didn’t have.”
Neal organized a forum last month at which community leaders grilled FEMA representatives over the slow pace of reimbursements. He said that meeting may have helped grease the wheels for Monson.
“I think there has been a great series of can-do stories that have emanated from many of the towns and cities that were hit,” he said. “And now we have to continue to advocate on their behalf.”