Hill and Blaine county officials continue to prepare for work on the recently declared flood disaster, including looking for damage assessments from owners of private property.
“We are currently doing assessment, including gaining information from individuals and businesses on losses either due to damages to individual property or, in the case of business, losses due to loss of business, ” Blaine County Commissioner Vic Miller said Monday.
Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Joe Parenteau said during a meeting with Hill County, Havre and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway officials Monday that people have been picking up, and turning in, forms to assess damage to private property.
The disaster declared in Montana by President Barack Obama Friday only will apply to aid for damage done to infrastructure owned by governments or certain nonprofits, but Parenteau said that if a high enough percentage of private property in the state was damaged, Gov. Brian Schweitzer can request assistance for that property as well.
Parenteau has copies of the forms available at the Hill County Courthouse Annex and copies are available at the city halls of Chinook and Harlem and at the DES offices in the Blaine County Courthouse. Copies also are available online at the state DES website.
Parenteau requested that forms for Hill County be turned back in to him at his offices in the Hill County Courthouse Annex, and he will forward them to the state DES offices.
People who suffered damage to their agricultural operations are urged to contact their local Farm Service Agency or Natural Resource Conservation Service offices.
U. S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging USDA to allow haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program land to prevent a feed shortage for livestck producers.
“With fields that have been under water since April, it’s pretty easy to see that this flooding is going to impact our ability to grow hay and other crops, ” Rehberg said in a release Monday. “Instead of waiting for the next crisis, the Department of Agriculture can get in front of it and prevent a feed shortage from happening in the first place. ”
U. S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., offered his services to local officials throughout Montana in dealing with the disaster declaration.
Baucus sent a letter to officials telling them not to accept a denial of federal assistance until his office staff members can review the claim.
“Call us, email us, or just stop by — we work for you …, ”
Baucus said in a release Monday. “We can’t make any promises, but we will do all we can to work with FEMA and all federal agencies on your behalf.
“And we’ll go through every claim with a fine-toothed comb to make sure Montanans get every ounce of support they are owed, ” he said.
“If communities have specific needs FEMA can’t fill, let us know, and we’ll work with you to find a solution, ” he added. “We’re looking under every rock, to exhaust every resource and get our communities the support they need. ”
Sen. Jon Tester has offered an online service to help people navigate disaster services available. That can be found at http://tester.senate.gov/Resources/flood.cfm.