AP NEWS

FEMA preliminary land assessment in Platte County concluded

April 7, 2019

Preliminary damage assessments that could lead to Individual Assistance being provided from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to Platte County residents affected from the March flooding has been completed as of Thursday, according to released information from FEMA.

County Emergency Manager Tim Hofbauer said that last week a preliminary effort was made by his team and a few FEMA representatives to access several portions of Platte County to the south and southwest. At that time, a hefty portion of land wasn’t accessible. On Monday, he said that the effort resumed and that more properties were able to receive an assessment from the federal agency.

“They could see more damage then,” the emergency manager said of the most recent assessment. “We hope that what they saw is enough to convince them that we have the need for Individual Assistance. We showed them everything that we possibly could show them.”

Currently, 15 counties statewide have been recipients of Individual Assistance: Boone, Buffalo, Butler, Cass, Colfax, Custer, Dodge, Douglas, Knox, Nemaha, Richardson, Sarpy, Saunders, Thurston and Washington. The Santee Sioux nation is also included on that list.

For those receiving Individual Assistance, the registration deadline is currently set for May 20.

Thomas Kempton, a personal information officer working for FEMA out of its Lincoln field office, said that at least two FEMA representatives have boots on the ground in Platte County. He explained that Individual Assistance revolves primarily around assessors taking in the damage from rental and owner-owned homes, and if it’s severe, gauging whether it’s widespread enough through the county that federal aid dollars should be distributed.

One misconception, though, is that this assistance is a colossal lump sum that will cover all of damages homeowners face, Kempton said. There is also the assumption by some that this individual assistance money can go toward subsidizing lost farmland or cattle, which it can’t – that process is handled through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“FEMA isn’t like it was with (Hurricane) Katrina,” Hofbauer said. “Where they went in and handed out all of this money.”

Generally, Individual Assistance runs in the $4,000 - $5,000 range, Kempton added.

In addition to Individual Assistance, FEMA representatives have been awarding Public Assistance to numerous counties. Information provided by Kempton shows that 65 of the state’s 93 counties have benefited from federal Public Assistance dollars - Platte is one.

“That is there to help with repairing infrastructure loss, other utilities, repairing roads and culverts and compensating cities for their initial response (to the disaster),” Kempton said, adding that those dollars are 75 percent FEMA with local and state governments covering the remaining 25 percent.”

Hofbauer said that it’s likely additional counties will receive word that they are receiving Individual Assistance in the upcoming days.

We hope to have more answers by tomorrow (Friday) or Monday (April 8),” he said. “That was a date that they said they will try to have more counties added. Whether we will be on that or not, we don’t know.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.