The state government is still trying to get help for private property owners who sustained damages with this year’s flooding, and the governor may be sending a letter today asking for that help.
Sheena Wilson, deputy chief of staff for Gov. Brian Schwietzer, said the state Disaster and Emergency Services was working to finish compiling the preliminary damage assessments submitted by private property owners and businesses Monday.
“The application is long and complicated, ” Wilson said Monday. “We have a couple of people working on it at DES, hoping against hope to be able to finalize that this evening and be ready for the governor to sign tomorrow and send out. ”
President Barack Obama declared a major federal disaster June 17 for flooding in Montana starting April 3. The disaster was for public assistance only, for damage to property and infrastructure owned publicly or by qualifying nonprofits, and did not apply to private property.
The state has been collecting assessments of damage to private property, including businesses, to see if enough of that property in the state sustained damage to qualify for individual assistance.
Joe Parenteau, Hill County DES coordinator, said Monday he is still collecting assessments. As of Monday morning, he had 57 individuals and six businesses which had submitted damage assessments. He is still tabulating the assessments and sending them on to the state DES office, he said.
Blaine County Commissioner Vic Miller said the county officials there are still waiting for any assessments to be returned.
Jan Traynor of the state DES said Friday that the state had received more than 800 assessments at that time.
Of those, 31 were from Hill County, with one major damage assessment and 30 listed as affected, and 30 from Fort Belknap, with four listed as major, 12 minor and 14 affected.
Miller said he believes many more could come in, but the traditional Montana ruggedness and independence could be slowing that down.
“Our emergencies in this part of the country have been every bit as devastating as the oil spill on the Yellowstone near Laurel or the flooding in Minot, yet, we, as a region, usually fend for ourselves, rather than start squeaking like a dry wagon wheel, ” Miller said. “Unfortunately, other parts of the country have a knack for ‘marketing’ their emergencies better than us.
“The result is we feel good about ourselves being a resilient bunch, ” Miller added. “The downfall is we always seem to fall into second place when we truly need help. ”
Wilson said that, once the request is submitted, the outcome is uncertain. Individual assistance damages are much more difficult to assess and categorize than public assistance, with many more variables, and it could be a week or more once the request is submitted before FEMA makes a recommendation to the president.
Even if individual assistance is approved, what assistance will be available and in what areas is not known, she said.
“We’ll just be waiting, holding our breath, once we submit this to FEMA to make a recommendation to President Obama, ” she said.