(TNS) - Midland County and surrounding areas are one step closer to possibly receiving federal financial help after the devastating flooding in May.
On Monday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer emailed a 16-page letter and 34 pages of supporting documents, including maps and photos, to President Donald Trump, requesting a major disaster declaration for the State of Michigan in response to the flooding in Midland, Saginaw, Gladwin, Arenac and Iosco counties.
A major disaster declaration would make Michigan eligible for financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The flooding in Midland and Saginaw counties and northern Gladwin County resulted from the failure of the Edenville Dam and the consequent failure of the Sanford Dam.
Whitmer's email was sent through the office of FEMA Regional Administrator James Joseph, who is based in Chicago and who visited Midland shortly after the flooding. The letter begins as follows:
"Dear Mr. President:
"Under the provisions of Section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5207 (Stafford Act), and implemented by 44 CFR § 206.36, I request that you declare a major disaster for the State of Michigan as a result of widespread and severe flooding and dam failures that struck the counties of Arenac, Gladwin, Iosco, Midland, and Saginaw, starting on May 17, 2020."
Another portion of the letter reads:
"Without significant assistance from the federal government, residents will suffer financial hardships for years as they attempt to repair and restore their damaged homes to pre-flood condition, repair or replace mechanical and electrical systems, take measures to ensure their homes are free of mold and other health hazards, and replace personal belongings. The inability to afford repairs could ultimately lower the property value of residences and, subsequently, regional tax revenue. Residents may need to devote their discretionary income and savings to unplanned expenses for removing debris, restoring their homes, and replacing personal belongings instead of supporting area businesses."
Whitmer also addressed the impact of the flooding on roads and bridges:
"One of the most significant impacts to the community were the effects of the flooding on road travel throughout the disaster area. Many segments of road were inaccessible due to damages and standing water, and the biggest challenge for travel across the area arises from the impacts that river flooding had on many bridges, which had to be temporarily closed, have been permanently damaged or were destroyed. These damages have created the challenge that long stretches of rivers could not be crossed. For example, in Gladwin County, there was no crossing over the Tittabawassee River for a stretch of 30 miles. In Saginaw County, the impacts to all four bridges crossing the river caused detours of up to one-and-a-half hours for trips that might normally only take minutes. The bridge outages separated entire county areas from each other, impacting travel for commutes, business and commerce, and day-to-day activities of residents, and increased emergency vehicle response times."
The flooding has resulted in more than $190 million in losses for residents and over $42 million in damages to public buildings and infrastructure, according to Whitmer's office.
The flood damage assessments sent to Whitmer's office by Midland County alone totaled $175 million in damage to homes, businesses and nonprofits, and $34 million in public property damage and emergency response costs.
“Last month’s flooding and dam failures upended the lives of thousands of Michigan families and business owners at a time when we were just beginning to reopen our economy following weeks of working to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Whitmer said in a news release. “This natural disaster, coupled with a global health pandemic, has created enormous stress and emotional trauma for these residents, and they need the federal government’s help to begin rebuilding their lives.”
In May, Whitmer declared a State of Emergency for Midland and Gladwin counties and requested and received aid from FEMA to help in the cleanup effort.
“This 500-year disaster has impacted everyone from homeowners and renters to businesses and farmers throughout mid-Michigan, and I urge the federal government to provide the resources necessary to ensure they don’t suffer financial hardships for years as they attempt to repair and restore their damaged homes and businesses,” Whitmer said. “We will get through this together and will emerge stronger on the other side.”
Moolenaar announces support for Whitmer's request
U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, whose Fourth Congressional District includes Midland and Gladwin counties and part of Saginaw County, released the following statement in a news release Monday right after Whitmer had sent the request to Trump:
"The devastation caused by this historic flooding destroyed homes and upended the lives of so many residents. These residents need assistance that goes beyond what local and state government can provide, and I hope that the federal government will quickly approve the request so additional resources will be available for those in need. I have been communicating with federal officials throughout this process and I am encouraged by what I have heard from FEMA.
"Finally, I want to thank all of the residents who filled out the property damage assessments. Their documentation was vital to our state and local leaders in making this request to the federal government."
The release states Moolenaar is leading an upcoming bipartisan, bicameral letter from members of the Michigan Congressional delegation in support of Whitmer's request for a major disaster declaration.
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