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Feds boost share for
state's Katrina bill

By Garry Mitchell
Associated Press Writer

MOBILE — It may take another year to fix all of Hurricane Katrina's damage in Alabama, but FEMA has agreed to pay a larger share of the estimated $110 million recovery cost for 22 counties that qualify for the aid.

The federal share had been 75 percent of the state's costs, which included such recovery projects as road and bridge repairs and debris removal. Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency increased its share to 90 percent, retroactive to Aug. 29, 2005, when Katrina struck.

That extra 15 percent could total between $9 million and $10 million, Benjie Abbott, the recovery branch chief at the Alabama EMA in Clanton, said Wednesday.

"That's something to look forward to," said engineer Bill Melton, environmental director in Mobile County, which received the heaviest blow from Katrina in Alabama. He said repairs continue on three bridges in south Mobile County.

Abbott said the counties eligible for the funds have completed about 80 percent of their Katrina repairs and cleanup, with some road work expected to take longer. Work continugs on the Interstate 10 bridge ramp and Dauphin Island's Bienville Boulevard.

If the counties have paid their share of the repair bills, Abbott said, then FEMA's decision last week on cost-sharing will mean a refund check for them.

The eligible amount for repair projects hasn't changed, Abbott said, only the FEMA share of it. The state pays the remaining 10 percent.

The state is paying applicants for the funds as their work progresses.

"We're working on estimates until all the final costs are known," FEMA spokeswoman Mary Hudak in Atlanta said.

Hudak said Gov. Bob Riley months ago had asked the agency to consider increasing its share of the repair bill for the hurricane. She said it was increased because the state had reached a set threshold in paying its costs.

While New Orleans and the Mississippi coast suffered catastrophic losses in the storm, Katrina's wind damage was reported from Dauphin Island, Bayou La Batre and Mobile up the western side of Alabama as far north as Tuscaloosa County.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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