Governor still gathering data needed for federal disaster declaration

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The process of determining whether parts of Missouri will be declared federal disaster areas has begun, as Missourians affected by last month’s floods continue to tally the damage.

Gov. Eric Greitens would need to submit a request for President Donald Trump to issue such a declaration, thereby granting Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to residents, U.S. Rep. Jason Smith’s communications director Maggie Starks said Wednesday.

Greitens announced a state of emergency April 29, but a separate request for a federal declaration would require a separate act.

Bollinger County Emergency Management coordinator Kevin Cooper said Wednesday it’s normal for there not to be a federal disaster declaration yet.

“I have been in contact with the State Emergency Management representative for Southeast Missouri, Mark Winkler, and he has been outstanding about getting us information,” Cooper said, adding the process of gathering information necessary to request a federal declaration is underway.

“We had FEMA and SEMA personnel out here this Sunday. We were doing the individual-assistance portion of the disaster,” he said.

Cooper said he was not aware of any delays.

“To the best of my understanding, it was great that the governor came out and declared a state of emergency, but what that does is make resources within the state available such as the (National) Guard, such as some of the other surplus property,” he said.

“Not to be rude, but for the real money to show up, that takes the federal declaration.”

But that process takes time, and for good reason, he said.

A complete tally of damage is necessary for adequate resources to be allotted.

“As far as support from state emergency management, I don’t know that it’s any different than it’s been in past years,” he said. “We’re kind of waiting on FEMA, as we always are. They come in with the initial assistance equipment, sandbags, [but] formal money declaration that always takes some time. I don’t really notice any difference in that.”

Starks said Smith has reached out to personal contacts in the White House in effort to keep them advised of the situation in Missouri after the flooding.

“The congressman has, of course, encouraged the White House to make sure they are aware of what is happening in southeast and south-central Missouri, but the formal process of surveying damage, coming up with a number a monetary amount of damage, getting those reports to Gov. Greitens, to SEMA and then actually declaring it a federal disaster all happens with Gov. Greitens’ office,” she said.

“Only after a federal disaster is declared does Congress officially weigh in and say, ‘Yes, Mr. President, we support you giving our state these funds,’ ... [but] Congressman Smith has reached out to his contacts at the White House to share his concern about the level of damage he’s seen.”

Greitens’ office did not respond to email inquiry and could not be reached by phone Wednesday afternoon.

tgraef@semissourian.com

(573) 388-3627

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