Preparedness & Recovery

Missouri State Agencies Offering Resources to Flood-Damaged Areas

Although the state has expended all available resources to provide relief, many of those affected are hoping that President Donald Trump will declare Missouri a disaster zone.

by Crystal Thomas, The Joplin Globe, Mo. / May 2, 2017
Volunteers fill sandbags in an effort to protect buildings from potential floodwater Monday, May 1, 2017, in Eureka, Mo. Torrential rain caused Missouri waterways to burst their banks over the weekend forcing hundreds of road closures and causing people to take precautions against possible flooding. AP/Jeff Roberson

(TNS) - Missouri state Rep. Bill Lant wanted to join Gov. Eric Greitens when he unveiled his plan to address flooding in the state.

But the ditches carved into the road in front of his Pineville home almost prevented him from doing that. He had been stuck the whole weekend while more than 10 inches of rain fell around him.

Lant said he planned to ask the governor for state assistance when it came to the devastation in his county.

“I’m fine, but there are parts of Noel, Anderson that have just had terrible flooding,” Lant said.

Although the state has expended all available resources to provide relief, many of those affected are hoping that President Donald Trump will declare Missouri a disaster zone.

By doing so, the state will be able to draw funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said he was “ready to advocate for any federal assistance.” U.S. Rep. Billy Long, a Springfield Republican, echoed the same in a Facebook post.

“Just spoke with POTUS @realDonaldTrump about the historic flooding in MO. He said he's behind us, and here to help the people of Missouri,” Greitens tweeted after his visit to Neosho.

In January of last year, when flooding in eastern and southwestern Missouri reached record highs, President Barack Obama declared 33 counties in Missouri a disaster zone. By April of last year, those counties had received more than $91 million in disaster relief through FEMA grants, Small Business Administration low-interest loans and National Flood Insurance Program payments.

The governor isn’t waiting for the federal government to act. Like Oklahoma and Arkansas, he declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard.

After flooding last year, an extra $4 million was put in the state’s budget so that the governor could activate the National Guard at a moment’s notice, according to House budget staff. Another $4 million, with the passage of the next budget during the legislative session, will be available for the governor to use on July 1.

State lawmakers are waiting to see how much damage there will be before talking about putting aside funds within the budget to address disaster relief.

“There is still water on the ground,” said Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann and House Budget Committee vice chairman.

The State Emergency Management Agency received $138 million last year. With a Friday deadline, lawmakers will start finalizing the state’s budget Tuesday.

Alferman speculated that if more funds would be necessary to address flooding, it would be done through a supplemental appropriation during next year’s legislative session.

Those with businesses, farms or homes affected by the floods can apply to get low-interest loans within 24 hours through the state treasurer’s HELP Program, according to Garrett Poorman, office spokesperson.

“Flood damage can be a significant financial setback for small businesses and farms, which are the backbone of Missouri’s economy," State Treasurer Eric Schmitt said in a statement. "My team is working hard to ensure those impacted by this weekend’s flooding can affordably finance water removal, restoration, and reconstruction."

Poorman said small businesses or farms with fewer than 100 employees can apply for loans through the “Linked Deposit” tab on the treasurer’s website. Through the program, the state treasurer’s office has partnered with 115 lenders across the state.

Other state agencies are on the ground trying to provide relief.

Law enforcement has helped with rescues, health and human services with medical assistance, and state-organized volunteers with food and shelter, said Capt. John Hotz, with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

As of Monday morning, 132 people were placed in shelters, according to the patrol. There were 143 water rescues and 111 evacuations as of the same time, the patrol said.

Hotz added that the flooding over the weekend wasn’t the state’s last. Several rivers, especially those in eastern Missouri, are projected to crest by Wednesday. The rest of the state is bracing itself for more permanent damage than flash floods, Hotz said.

“Some areas are seeing higher levels, more than they ever have before,” Hotz said. “You have to remember that the water is still going up.”

With the help of graders to flatten out the road, Lant was able to make it to the governor's news conference.

“People are pretty self-sufficient,” Lant said. “They meet their needs before reaching out to government assistance.”

Greitens talked to those affected in Van Buren and helped volunteers sandbag in Eureka after his Neosho visit.

More resources

The University of Missouri Extension has put out a guide on how to clean up flood-damaged homes. It can be accessed at http://extension.missouri.edu/explorepdf/miscpubs/mp0904.pdf.

———

©2017 The Joplin Globe (Joplin, Mo.)

Visit The Joplin Globe (Joplin, Mo.) at www.joplinglobe.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.