FEMA reviewing area damage assessments

Tuesday, May 17, 2011
This Thursday, May 12, 2011, image provided by NASA on Saturday, May 14, 2011, taken by an Expedition 27 crew member aboard the International Space Station, shows the outlines of heavily flooded agricultural fields on the Missouri side of the Mississippi river. The center point for this frame is just north of Caruthersville, Mo. and west of Ridgely, Tenn. North is towards the lower right corner of the image. (AP Photo/NASA)

FEMA field specialists have completed preliminary damage assessments in Southeast Missouri, including Cape Girardeau, Perry and Bollinger counties, for their individual assistance program, an agency representative said Monday.

Representatives from FEMA have also finished initial damage assessments in Scott and Stoddard counties.

Assessments are now under review as emergency management officials wait for President Barack Obama to include more counties in his disaster declaration. Five were in a declaration made last week.

Gov. Jay Nixon has asked for 40 Missouri counties be included in Obama's declaration. Individuals, families or business in counties listed in the declaration are eligible to apply for federal funds to cover losses due to flooding. The losses cannot be covered by insurance.

"Many families and businesses have suffered because of this severe weather," Nixon said in a recent news release. "Counties, communities and the state also have been burdened with extremely high costs to protect citizens and property, and will have high expenses for repairing damage to infrastructure and public buildings."

Scott Holste, Nixon's press secretary, said Monday as damage assessments are completed around the rest of the state and information is made available to the federal government they expect more counties to receive declarations.

Since Obama declared a disaster to the five Missouri counties May 9, FEMA has approved 557 individual applications. More than 1,500 have registered for assistance in Taney, New Madrid, Mississippi, Butler and St. Louis counties, according to FEMA spokesman Russ Edmonston.

Since last week the program has approved and appropriated more than $3.1 million.

"Money is often being approved within a few days of the inspection being completed. In most cases, the money is being direct deposited into people's bank accounts," said John Mills, FEMA external affairs field specialist. "We're waiting now to see if more counties will be added."

Edmonston said also the state is working with FEMA to establish a schedule for assessing damages for the agency's public assistance program.

"Under the public assistance program FEMA pays at least a minimum of 75 percent for the costs of emergency protective measure -- if the declaration is made," Edmonston said. Cape Girardeau County Emergency Management director Richard Knaup said a meeting for public entities on the program will be Friday at the County Administration Building in Jackson. Knaup said they will discuss the program, what the county needs to do and what needs to be submitted.

He added that although Cape Girardeau County is not yet a declared county, with the heavily affected Buzzi Unicem, a cement plant on Sprigg Street in Cape Girardeau, and more than a "couple dozen" homes in the county damaged, he hopes it will be soon.

"What it will take for them to recover is astronomical," Knaup said, referring to Buzzi Unicem.

As more counties are declared eligible for disaster assistance, Edmonston said, briefings on application procedures would be held in the affected areas.

Those in the counties eligible for assistance to affected individuals and business owners can begin the disaster application process by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362.

In Illinois, five FEMA teams began a damage assessment Monday in 18 counties. That survey should be completed this week, according to spokesman Gene Romano.

ehevern@semissourian.com

388-3635

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