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Dougherty County still working to secure millions in storm recovery funds

Representatives from Cornerstone Government Affairs discuss their current work with Dougherty County commissioners on Monday. / Mary Green

Eight months after the January storms, Dougherty County and other Southwest Georgia counties are still working to secure major funds to aid in recovery.

Dougherty County is currently working with Cornerstone Government Affairs, a lobbyist group with Southwest Georgia ties. County commissioners voted on Monday to extend their contract with Cornerstone for another six months, until the end of next March, at which point they will decide on a month-by-month basis whether to extend it further.

Through the state, Dougherty County is trying to obtain $100 million from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program. The state also applied for another $100 million from this program for other counties affected by the storms.

Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said the county has a committee in place at this time to figure out how they would use that money for long-term recovery.

“We have identified general projects, such as improving and trying to really reinvest in Radium Springs and connecting it to the rest of the community and improving roads, burying power lines, things like that that make us more resilient as a community,” he said.

Cohilas said that any project they choose will need to get state approval first.

Representatives from Cornerstone said Dougherty County is “well-positioned” to receive this money when the state receives it because of all the groundwork they had done ahead of time.

Cohilas said they decided to get out in front of this work in order to apply for a Congressional relief package to submit it in time for the FY 2017 budget in Congress. He said that through this process, they discovered an “old, outdated formula” was being used to determine federal aid, which did not correlate to the need in Georgia as a result of January’s storms.

“Disaster recovery, as we’re learning, can be very, very complicated with respect to the federal requirements, and so sometimes the disaster recovery packages that are drafted by Congress are unique to a particular area, such as Louisiana,” he said. “We had different damage here in this community, and we had been working with our federal delegation to make sure that the requirements that are there actually coincide with the damage that we had, and a wind event is much different than a water event.”

Cohilas added Dougherty County received much support from Governor Nathan Deal, GEMA, Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue and Congressman Sanford Bishop throughout this process.

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