Virginia Governor Donates $5,000 After FEMA Denies Disaster Aid to Earthquake-Hit County

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is appealing the Federal Emergency Management Agency's denial of disaster relief for earthquake-struck Louisa County, Va., and donated $5,000 from his political action committee after the community was refused a visit by President Obama.

On Friday night, McDonnell's aides delivered a check from the governor's Opportunity Virginia PAC to Louisa residents, and the governor is encouraging all Virginians to contribute, an aide to McDonnell told

McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin added that the appeal to FEMA hasn't been submitted yet as the governor's office is compiling all necessary information to make the request.

Obama is headed to Virginia and North Carolina beginning Monday on a three-day American Jobs Act tour. While in Virginia, he is scheduled to visit Emporia and Hampton, where he will go to Langley Air Force Base.

However, the president declined a request from McDonnell to visit Mineral, Va., epicenter of the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that shook the East Coast on Aug. 23, and part of the district represented by Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

"The impacts of the August earthquake on Louisa County were severe. The governor believes the president would have gained a valuable perspective on the matter by personally witnessing the damage, and hearing directly from residents," Martin said after FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate called McDonnell Friday to inform him of the president's decision.

FEMA did provide hurricane relief to some parts of the state following Hurricane Irene, though not Louisa County, which after an earthquake, hurricane and tornado in the space of two months, has been hard hit.

Amazingly, Louisa homeowners face a mere $18 million in estimated damages, remarkable considering the earthquake shook about 900 properties, completely destroying two dozen homes and damaging nearly all of the county's 200 pre-Civil War era homes. About two dozen of the properties struck had earthquake insurance.

Most  homes are looking at an average repair bill ranging from about $8,500 for minor repairs to about $73,000 for major damage. More than 460 homeowners reported damage that the county hasn't inspected yet. FEMA generally provides homeowners as much as $30,000 for repairs to homes in disaster-declared areas.

Louisa also reported damages to commercial properties and businesses worth about $645,000, and buildings like churches and other non-profit groups had about $1 million in damages. Separately, officials said costs related to replacing the local high school and an elementary school devastated by the earthquake will likely top $64 million.

The local fundraiser Friday night at which McDonnell aides presented $5,000 from the governor's Opportunity Virginia PAC was dubbed "Louisa Cares" or as the local newspaper put it: "Louisa cares: Because the feds don't."

"Virginians have endured a number of natural disasters in recent months. In the wake of each one of these events I have been heartened by the resiliency of those directly affected and the outpouring of support and generosity from caring individuals across the commonwealth," McDonnell said in a statement accompanying the announced donation from his PAC.

According to fundraising reports from June 30, McDonnell's PAC had $2.9 million cash on hand. Its next report is due on Monday.

Old Dominion also ended the fiscal year in surplus, according to the governor's office. The state ended up nearly $545 million in the black over the summer. About $17.4 million of that went to a natural disaster reserve fund, part of which provided tornado relief following an April disaster in which FEMA also declined to provide aid.

Another $30 million went into a "Federal Action Contingency Trust" Fund that the governor created to help offset future shortages in federal assistance.

In August, the governor created a permanent Virginia Disaster Relief Fund to be financed by private and corporate donations to pay recovery efforts in case the federal government denied assistance. It raised $1.1 million for April's tornado relief. Likewise, in Louisa County, the William A. Cooke Foundation agreed to match $100,000 in individual donations to the Fluvanna/Louisa Housing Foundation to assist with the rebuilding effort.

McDonnell credited Louisa County's leadership for its "outside-the-box thinking."