Federal assistance for local individuals affected by recent flooding has been approved, and area government officials are relieved to see the program go into effect.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump approved the state’s request for a major disaster declaration due to floods and storms that began April 29. This made it possible for homeowners and renters in 20 Missouri counties, including Andrew and Buchanan, to apply for aid through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Individual Assistance Program.
Buchanan County Emergency Management Director Bill Brinton said this program was not available during the first round of flooding in March due to not enough damage being done to individual properties.
“When the second event happened, it’s a lot wider spread. There’s lots more homes involved in it on both the east and west side of the state,” Brinton said. “So, we finally met that threshold where there’s enough damage and there’s assistance for individuals.”
Housing assistance, low-interest disaster loans, counseling and money for repairs and the replacement of some damaged items are a few of the many things that can be applied for through the program.
Brinton said loans can cover uninsured property loss, and for some who may not qualify for the loans, one-time grants may be available.
He said FEMA will be setting up a post in St. Joseph to assist individuals with the process, though a location and date have not yet been determined.
“They’ll set up an individual assistance post and then people will go in and fill out the paperwork with them,” Brinton said.
Homeowners and renters can register for disaster assistance at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling FEMA at 800-621-3362.
Another FEMA program, the Public Assistance Program, which would provide financial aid for county- and city-owned property damage, has not been approved, though officials with the city of St. Joseph and Buchanan County have submitted preliminary estimates and are continuing to assess damage.
Presiding Buchanan County Commissioner Lee Sawyer said while that process continues to be ongoing, the recent declaration will mean relief for those who live in the area.
“This is really where individuals go in directly and deal directly with the federal government themselves,” Sawyer said. “So, really the county is not involved, but obviously we’re very pleased that individuals in the county have an opportunity now to go apply for this assistance.”
County officials have estimated there is around $1.2 million in damage to county-owned property caused by flooding that they hope to have partially covered by FEMA funds if the Public Assistance Program application is approved.
Jada McClintick, emergency management manager for the city, said St. Joseph officials are estimating that total flood damage for 2019 on city-owned property is approaching $2 million.
It is not yet known the exact damage that has been done by the current flood event.
“With the second incident, we still have so many things that are underwater that we haven’t gotten a good grasp on all the damage assessment yet, so the governor has not been able to request the PA declaration yet,” McClintick said.
The majority of damage done to city property has occurred at Heritage Park on the city’s northwest side.
The first round of floods, which matching grant funds have been approved for through FEMA, caused damage to some parts of the park, while the second round damaged other parts, such as the field grass.
McClintick said FEMA will have to decide what damage occurred when and then will assign matching grants for individual repair projects.
“Heritage is one site and they’ll have to try and divide the different damage between what happened during this flood and what happened during that flood,” McClintick said.
She said FEMA funds typically cover the majority of a project’s costs, but the state and city will be responsible for some of the funding.
According to City Manager Bruce Woody, it could take years before those reimbursement funds are seen, based on past experiences.