Federal officials have denied Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s request for a disaster declaration to let the city of Baltimore and the state recover millions of dollars in costs stemming from rioting that followed the police-involved death of Freddie Gray, officials said Friday.
The state and city said they are reviewing their options, including a possible appeal, which must be filed within 30 days.
“We thought the request we put together was pretty comprehensive in relation to other requests I’ve seen,” said Chas Eby, a spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, which prepared the governor’s request.
In a June 12 letter, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator W. Craig Fugate wrote that after reviewing all available information, the agency determined that federal aid “is not appropriate for this event.”
In a request submitted May 22, the Republican governor included a $19.4 million estimate for emergency protective measures and damage to buildings and equipment. He also cited a Baltimore city estimate that the rioting and looting in late April, followed by a five-night, city-wide curfew, had an economic impact of $30.5 million.
Baltimore officials have set aside $20 million to cover their direct costs, including police overtime.
“The $20 million has been taken from city’s Rainy Day Fund, so, if necessary, we are prepared to use that money,” said Howard Libit, the city’s strategic planning director.
The type of assistance Hogan requested would enable public agencies to recover at least 75 percent of their eligible costs.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said in a news release Friday he was disappointed with FEMA’s decision. “The unrest we saw in Baltimore impacted the region far too much for local officials to handle on their own,” Cardin said. “At a time Maryland’s budget is already stretched thin, the people of Baltimore need and deserve a strong federal partner.”
Gray, 25, died April 19, a week after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in police custody following an arrest for carrying what police called an illegal switchblade knife. Public outrage peaked on the day of his funeral, April 27, when rioters burned police cars and buildings and looted or damaged hundreds of businesses.
Disaster declarations for civil unrest are rare. President George H.W. Bush declared a disaster for civil disturbance in 1992 in response to the Los Angeles riots sparked by the Rodney King beating, but that was the only instance found in a 2004 Harvard University study covering the period 1989 to 1999. Ninety-nine percent of the 570 declarations analyzed were for extreme weather, including fires.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has made a separate disaster declaration enabling people to apply for low-interest loans to repair damage caused by the rioting. The quasi-public Baltimore Development Corp. is offering no-interest loans financed by private donations.