Habersham County prepares for financial impact of Hurricane Delta

Pitts Park, Clarkesville

When Hurricane Delta passed through Habersham County, it left approximately $5.25 million dollars of damage in its wake. The county, still in a local state of emergency, experienced severe damage on 56 roads, multiple power outages, downed trees and power lines, flooding, water damage, and water safety issues the weekend of Oct. 10.

Habersham County Commission Chairman Stacy Hall predicts that the local state of emergency will be lifted within the week. As for repairing damages, Hall hopes Habersham will be able to receive grant funds to repair the damage from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) or Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). With the current damages state-wide, however, this isn’t likely.

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Unless more counties across the state come forward with about $10 million in damages that would qualify Governor Kemp to place Georgia in a state of emergency, which requires at least $15 million in damages, Habersham won’t have access to GEMA or FEMA funding.

“If we don’t reach that threshold and we can’t access those funds, then […] we will try to access some other reimbursements or grant opportunities, either through the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), or other combination of state agencies. But […] any revenue that we’re not able to tap into externally is going to have to come out of our rainy day fund,” Hall says. “This is exactly why for years and years and years, […] every time [the county establishes] a budget, we put a little bit of money aside to build up that general fund balance, which is a rainy day fund for this exact reason.”

Right now, there’s about $6 million in that fund. Hall estimates that the county’s contribution to the post-hurricane repairs would cut that fund in half, estimating around $3 million dollars would come out of the general fund balance (or “rainy day fund”) to repair county-wide damage.

“The county’s portion would probably drop [the general fund balance] in half,” Hall says. “But that’s what it’s there for.”

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