The state government is looking to see if it may be able to expand its disaster request, looking for aid to private residences and businesses damaged by flooding.
“There’s no deadline on this, but the sooner the better,” Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Joe Parenteau said this morning. “The sooner this goes in the better chance we have of assessing it (in time to go with the federal disaster request).”
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials were in Montana last week and previously assessing flooding damage. That will be used in making a recommendation on Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s request that President Barack Obama declare a federal disaster in the state.
Montana’s U.S. Sen. Max Baucus Wednesday questioned the time it is taking for action on that request, asking FEMA Administrator William Craig Fugate to explain the delay.
“If this is a matter of bureaucratic red tape, it’s unacceptable and I won’t stand for it,” Baucus said in a press release Wednesday.
The presidential disaster declared for Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation and Hill County by Obama in 2010 excluded private property.
Parenteau said that, this year, because of the widespread flooding damage across the state, private property may be eligible. State DES is asking private property owners, both residential and business, to submit estimates of damages sustained.
“If there’s enough (private) property and businesses affected the governor may request (aid for) that as well …,” he said. “There’s no guarantee, but getting as much information as we can will help.”
He said that also applies to residences and businesses dealing with flooding due to high ground water seeping into buildings. Depending on the information the government receives, that may be eligible, he said.
Forms can be picked up at county health departments, or online at http://dma.mt.gov/des/estdamages.asp.
Parenteau said they can be returned to him at the Health Department at the Hill County Courthouse Annex or by email at email@example.com.
Any farm or agricultural damage should be reported to the local USDA Farm Service Agency office.
Parenteau said the Hill County Health Department also as information about how to deal with flood damage and issues and health risks including growth of mold.
Montana’s U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg announced Wednesday that he supported an amendment that would increase the money available for disaster assistance in the Missouri and Mississippi rivers basins.
Although the Energy and Water Appropriations bill is at $30.6 billion, $5.9 billion below the president’s request and $1 billion below last year’s funding level, the amendment adds $1.028 billion for, among other things, flood control efforts and operation and maintenance of emergency response efforts, Rehberg said in a release.
“We were able to prioritize this emergency funding while working within the framework of budget limitations,” Rehberg said. “That means we get people the help they need without asking our kids and grandkids to foot the bill.”
And Baucus said Montanans who have been fighting the effect of flooding for weeks should not have to wait for a decision on a disaster declaration for the state.
In a letter he sent to Fugate Wednesday, Baucus asked why there was a delay in the declaration, citing in the release a conference call he held May 26 in which FEMA officials heard firsthand about some of the damages in the state.
“That was three weeks ago. We asked FEMA to get boots on the ground. It’s now clear and well-documented that we have well over the threshold for federal assistance,” Baucus said. “If there is a legitimate holdup, I want to know what it is so we can solve it. If not, FEMA needs to get to work.”