Area officials are relieved and awaiting the next steps after a disaster declaration was finally signed.
Late Friday, President Trump signed a disaster declaration for a number of counties throughout the state of South Dakota — including Yankton County — for relief in the wake of a major winter storm and ongoing flooding in March and April.
Yankton City Manager Amy Leon told the Press & Dakotan that the news is helpful.
“We were anticipating it,” Leon said. “I was a little relieved because the first step in the long process and journey of flood recovery is — after assessing damages — getting that declaration. My understanding is that we’ll be part of that disaster aid bill that passed previously.”
She said there’s some heavy lifting to do now.
“The first thing we need to do is sit down and visit with our state emergency management and county emergency management,” she said. “We’ll also be talking with Planning (& Development) District III and with staff prioritizing projects and touching base with our regional FEMA office that came down and get an idea of what funding programs (are available).”
Yankton County Emergency Management Director Paul Scherschligt told the Press & Dakotan that he was excited about the news.
“I’m happy to see we’ll be able to come back and help some of the communities and the townships,” Scherschligt said. “Even the individual assistance program was approved to come help out the citizens in the county.”
He said officials are now preparing for the next steps.
“We’ve been going back and forth with the state on what is next,” he said. “They’re putting together a team to meet with us to talk to the applicants that had damages and need assistance — townships, the City of Yankton, the county Highway Department. They will have to meet with the folks from FEMA and the state — it’s called a kickoff meeting — and they will be told what they need to do and the steps. We don’t know the steps right now because there is a new process and a lot of it is being done through the FEMA Portal.”
The kickoff meeting is potentially going to be slated sometime in the next week or two.
Scherschligt said that individual assistance measures could be coming even sooner.
“The individual assistance is going to happen for us pretty quickly,” he said. “I got a call (Monday) from the state and they’re looking for a place to set up. … There’s a chance that they could be in town on Thursday of this week — we’re still working on that — to start working on individual assistance.”
He said more information will be released on individual assistance once the details have been finalized.
Leon said local entities will do all that they can to mitigate the burden of costs on taxpayers.
“We’re going to try to access every dollar we can to help us with the flood recovery,” she said.
The following is a summary from FEMA of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Trump’s disaster declaration issued for South Dakota.
Assistance for Affected Individuals and Families Can Include as Required:
• Rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable. Initial assistance may be provided for up to three months for homeowners and at least one month for renters. Assistance may be extended if requested after the initial period based on a review of individual applicant requirements.
• Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary and functional .
• Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs.
• Unemployment payments up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed individuals.
• Low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance. Loans available up to $200,000 for primary residence; $40,000 for personal property, including renter losses. Loans available up to $2 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance.
• Loans up to $2 million for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster’s adverse economic impact. This loan in combination with a property loss loan cannot exceed a total of $2 million.
• Loans up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence.
Other relief programs: Crisis counseling for those traumatized by the disaster; income tax assistance for filing casualty losses; advisory assistance for legal, veterans’ benefits and social security matters.
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