The clock is quickly winding down to apply for disaster relief from Missouri’s devastating floods during late April and early May.
President Donald Trump issued a Disaster Declaration for the state on June 2nd, freeing up federal funds to provide assistance.
Initially local governments and non-profits in 46 counties were eligible for public help, while homeowners and renters in 27 counties could receive individual aid.
Since then, seven counties have been added to the public category. They include Boone, Cape Girardeau, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Scott and Ste. Genevieve. The extended public deadline to apply, which includes only those seven jurisdictions, is Saturday, August 12th.
State Disaster Recovery Coordinator Patrick Baker says the special arrangement is in place because those counties didn’t originally meet the required damage totals.
“As additional damage was discovered, they then met the threshold to be included in the Presidential disaster declaration” said Baker.
On the individual side, eight additional counties have been added. Those jurisdictions, along with the original 27, are eligible for relief through Monday August 14th.
The new total of 35 individual counties includes Bollinger, Butler, Carter, Christian, Crawford, Dent, Douglas, Dunklin, Franklin, Gasconade, Greene, Howell, Iron, Jasper, Jefferson, Madison, Maries, McDonald, Newton, Oregon, Osage, Ozark, Pemiscot, Phelps, Pulaski, Reynolds, Ripley, Shannon, Ste. Genevieve, St. Louis, Stone, Taney, Texas, Wayne and Wright.
The disaster relief funds are available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and are distributed through the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA).
Public assistance is generally applied to infrastructure repairs for roads, bridges and schools. FEMA covers 75% of those costs, with the state historically chipping in 10%. The local governments and non-profits are normally required to cover the remaining 15%.
Baker says the federal and state money can help cities and counties repair damage that would otherwise be too expensive for them to cover.
“Certainly there’s a different fiscal reality in each county” Baker said. “This cost sharing allows some of those counties to recover where they normally wouldn’t if they had to pay the entire cost.”
Any public project that is $120,000 or less is paid up front, while larger cash outlays are parceled out as the work is completed. Baker says local governments and non-profits can expect assistance from federal and state agencies once they meet the Saturday deadline to file applications.
“Then over the next couple of months, they’ll work with folks from SEMA and FEMA on looking at the detail and level of the work to repair those structures to get them back to pre-disaster status.” Baker says the funds can also be applied to upgrades that guard against future damage from disasters such as floods or ice storms.
Disaster assistance for individual homeowners is handled differently than the public aid in that it is awarded as a grant. According to Baker, people often mistakenly assume they can’t get federal assistance if they’re protected by disaster insurance.
“It’s important that even if an applicant has flood insurance that they still call and register. We don’t want anybody to disqualify themselves. Let those officials on the phone walk you through what programs and assistance is available, see what you might qualify for.”
Since disaster assistance has been available for victims of the spring floods, grant money has been issued to nearly 1,900 individuals and families in the 35 counties for items such as emergency home repairs and rental assistance.
Mike O’Connell with the Missouri Department of Public Safety says the dollar figure for individuals is substantial. “There’s almost $12 million in grant money that’s gone to them” said O’Connell.
Further information during the last few days to apply for aid is available here of by calling 800-621-FEMA.
O’Connell says the federal money’s meant to simultaneously help people and the cities they live in recovery from disasters. “This is essential for families to recover, and then that helps Missouri communities recover. We just don’t want anybody to miss out on this opportunity to apply.”
Homeowners, renters and businesses in Missouri have also received low interests loans totaling $15.6 million from the Small Business Administration as a result of the floods.