DANVERS /Massachusetts Newswire/ — Funds to help reimburse 165 communities across the Commonwealth for storm expenses. Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray today announced the release of $5.5 million in state funding to help reimburse communities for costs associated with the December 2008 ice storm that severely impacted significant portions of Massachusetts and left more than a million homes and businesses without power. The funds are in addition to the $49.2 million the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) distributed to Massachusetts, after Governor Deval Patrick sought federal emergency relief in the days following the December 11-12, 2008 storm.

“Last year’s ice storm caused exceptional hardship and suffering,” said Governor Patrick. “Together with the federal government, we are pleased to help our residents, businesses and communities rebuild.”

“Last year, a state of emergency was declared for counties in the Central and Western region of the Commonwealth due to the ice storm, further impacting residents, businesses, cities and towns during an already challenging economic time,” said Lieutenant Governor Murray. “Thanks to the partnership between our administration, legislators, local officials, and the federal government, we are now able to reimburse communities for some of what they spent to recover from this terrible event.”

For storm emergencies such as the December ice storm, FEMA reimburses eligible entities 75% of eligible costs for storm response, including emergency work, debris clearance and restoration work. The state and impacted communities will split the remaining costs.

The $5.5 million will be distributed to 165 communities in Berkshire, Hampshire, Hampden, Franklin, Worcester, Essex, Bristol, Suffolk and Middlesex Counties. Additionally, funds will reimburse nine regional school districts and five municipal light departments. Click here to see the list.

The ice storm of 2008 was the Commonwealth’s most expensive disaster, and costs from the storm are one of the pressures on communities’ tax levies this year. The reimbursements will help communities as they set their tax rate for the current year. The Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Services will work with eligible communities to offset snow and ice deficits raised through their tax rate resulting from this storm.

Governor Patrick declared a state of emergency during last year’s winter storm which caused tens of millions of dollars in damage across the region. State response to the ice storm was well coordinated as 1,500 Army and Air National Guard members assisted local communities, MEMA, and local public safety officials.

Additionally, the Ice Storm Response Team, comprised of over 100 Department of Conservation and Recreation employees, responded immediately to this natural disaster, working tirelessly during the initial weeks to clear primary roadways and facilities of downed electrical lines, mountainous ice-laden trees, water hazards and debris.