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FEMA changes course, grants expanded disaster declaration for Macomb, Oakland counties

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

After an initial denial of expanded assistance to Macomb and Oakland counties, federal emergency officials on Friday agreed to expand a major disaster declaration for the area in relation to late June rainfall and flooding. 

The expanded major disaster declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will make individuals in the counties eligible for assistance such as low-cost loans, temporary housing or home repairs.

Abandoned vehicles float in flood water on Interstate 94 near Lumley Avenue in Detroit, June 27, 2021.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer thanked the federal agency for reversing its decision in a Saturday statement. 

“We are going to do everything in our power to ensure that Michiganders get the assistance they need to recover from these storms," Whitmer said. "And we have an opportunity under the bipartisan infrastructure bill to make long-term upgrades to our infrastructure to ensure that local systems can handle historic rainfall going forward.” 

The communities were affected by widespread flooding in southeast Michigan after heavy rainfall on June 25 and 26. 

President Joe Biden granted a disaster declaration for individual assistance for Washtenaw and Wayne counties on July 15. FEMA denied a request Sept. 2 that the disaster declaration be expanded to Macomb and Oakland counties. 

"Following the denial, the state conducted an additional joint preliminary damage assessment with federal and local officials to validate the extent of damage to homes across Macomb and Oakland counties," the governor's office said in a statement Saturday. 

Whitmer submitted an appeal of the Sept. 2 denial on Friday and the appeal was granted later that day.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter on Saturday thanked the governor and the Biden administration for reconsidering their request. 

“As these events continue to increase, it’s helpful to have an ally in Lansing and someone who also understands the importance of infrastructure investments that will help reduce the severity of future storms," Coulter said in a statement.