November 12, 2021
The Honorable Larry Hogan
Governor, State of Maryland
100 State Circle
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
Dear Governor Hogan:
We are writing you to request a meeting to discuss the ongoing recovery efforts in response to the EF-2 tornado that touched down in Annapolis and Anne Arundel on September 1, 2021. In all, the tornado traveled 11.25 miles, reaching speeds of 125 mph and caused over $3.8 million dollars in economic damages for businesses in the City of Annapolis. Over 100 properties in Anne Arundel County and the City of Annapolis were severely damaged, resulting in more than 40 residents being displaced and 25 businesses significantly affected. Many of those affected by this natural disaster are still working hard to recover from the devastating damage that was caused to their homes, businesses, and community gathering places. We thank you for the support that you have already provided to our constituents whose properties and livelihoods were adversely affected, including the approved request for the Small Business Administration (SBA) to declare a physical disaster declaration, and the $4 million dollars in recovery funds that you directed to the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for disaster relief programs.
While these are important resources, they are predominantly loan programs. Unfortunately many of our constituents are unable to take on the burden of a loan – even a low-interest loan. Specifically, the families and many of the businesses in the Parole community can ill afford loan repayments, or worse, risk future generations not being able to own their family homes due to encumbrances from these loans. As you are aware, the Parole community is a historically African American, generational neighborhood with many residents retired and on a fixed income. The Parole neighborhood was one of the hardest-hit areas, as you may remember from when you surveyed the damage the day after the tornado. Many of these residents have raised concerns that the recovery loan programs, even at low or zero percent interest rates, will likely only extend their storm-related financial hardships well into the future. Many of the impacted residents are seniors living on fixed incomes or have incomes below the poverty level and are struggling to afford their high insurance deductibles. In addition, many are uninsured or underinsured. As a result, a number of the programs the State of Maryland offered have been significantly underutilized.
By way of just one example, our shared constituent, Ms. Karen Simms of 1914 Vincent Street in Annapolis is a senior citizen and life-long resident of Parole. Her repairs are estimated to cost $15,800. Her insurance company issued a check for $6,800 after receiving her $2,000 deductible. This leaves her with an astonishing $11,000 out-of-pocket cost for the repairs on her home. Adding a monthly loan payment on her limited monthly budget would be a significant financial hardship.
In response to the damage caused by the EF-2 tornado, Anne Arundel County and the City of Annapolis have provided numerous recovery resources to its residents and business owners. These resources include setting up community assistance centers, waiving permit fees and expediting emergency inspections, providing community dumpsters and cleanup supplies, entering into one-time corrective tree action agreements with residents, and even providing micro grants to businesses through the Disaster Recovery Micro Grant Program (DRMGP) made available through charitable funding to the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation. Other local, national, and international nonprofit organizations such as Blessed in Tech, the American Red Cross, and the Tzu Chi USA Foundation, have also aided in managing donations, implementing community outreach support, and providing direct financial assistance to the families and individuals in need. At this time, we are requesting a grant option be made available through the state as the total amount of damage caused by the tornado has exceeded the capabilities of Anne Arundel County and the City of Annapolis.
After Annapolis was hit with historic flooding on October 30, 2021, the state’s emergency declaration made it possible for Anne Arundel County to make VOLT Disaster Recovery grants available, helping business owners recover from physical damage and economic injury. While we understand that VOLT program funding is not available for tornado victims, we ask that similar grants be made available through the existing DHCD disaster recovery program. By transitioning a portion of the dedicated recovery funds, qualifying low-income residents like Ms. Simms may be able to make the necessary repairs and get back into their homes.
It is important to us that our most vulnerable residents are not left behind. It is equally important that the character of the Parole community not be lost because residents are unable to afford necessary repairs. Please recognize the long-term effects this natural disaster will continue to have on this proud and historic community if residents can not get the repairs completed nor return to their homes. We look forward to finding a time to meet and discuss these challenges and solutions in person
Senator Sarah Elfreth
Delegate Shaneka Henson
Delegate Dana Jones