Missouri’s Congressional delegation doesn’t want to see attention turned away from flood victims after a grueling summer for many Missourians.
Two major concerns have emerged as the floodwaters have for the most part receded, though the Missouri River remains high. One, disaster aid to flood victims. Two, management of the Missouri River.
Northern Missouri Congressman Sam Graves is pleased the Federal Emergency Management Agency is reaching out individually to flood victims.
But, Graves says it isn’t the Federal Emergency Management Agency workers on the ground who are the problem. He says it is FEMA officials in Washington who have made it difficult for northwest Missouri flood victims to get the federal help they need.
Graves, a Republican, does applaud FEMA for establishing disaster assistance centers across the region.
“Well, it’s allowed at least more access and it has allowed people to be able to apply in person and that does help, by the way,” Graves tells Missourinet affiliate KSGF in St. Joseph. “But it hasn’t cleared up just some of the confusion that’s out there.”
Graves says FEMA rules have confused many residents applying for federal relief.
“It seems like FEMA, disaster after disaster, continues to make this process a whole lot harder and a whole lot more confusing that it has to be,” according to Graves.
Graves has helped pass two pieces of legislation through the U.S. House calling for better accountability in the spending of federal disaster aid funds.
Flood victims throughout the area have until September 9th to apply for federal disaster assistance from FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt contends individual disaster relief has been unevenly distributed.
“Here’s another case where you maybe had one neighbor in one flood that qualified for assistance and somebody who lived a mile away in a second flood that didn’t and that’s pretty hard to explain to people,” Blunt tells KSGF.
Some of that is due to how FEMA looks at the 2019 flooding. Federal officials separate the flooding into two disasters, one which hit in mid-March and another which hit in late May.
Missouri officials contend Missouri victims don’t see it that way, but rather, see a disaster which began in spring and didn’t release its grip until well into summer. Some areas of Missouri remain under floodwaters, even now.
Blunt and Graves have led the entire Missouri Congressional delegation to write FEMA, asking for clarification on how it is handing out disaster assistance.
Blunt says the devastation of the floods this year just might be enough to get the Army Corps of Engineers to seriously consider changes to how it manages the Missouri River.
He says Missouri has long complained about the Corps’ management. This year, other states have joined in the criticism as flooding has cut a swath of damage through Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri.
Blunt says there has to be a way to adjust the Corps’ management of the river without getting into a fight with the upper Missouri River basin states.
“What we’re concerned about is management of the river in the basin we live in and our friends from Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas share those concerns; all those governors are working together,” Blunt says. “I think we’ve reached a moment here on the river that’s there is a way forward. If we work hard, we may just be able to find it and I intend to do my best to find that better way forward.”
By Brent Martin of Missourinet affiliate KSGF in St. Joseph