Federal Disaster Declaration Is Clouded By Various Agencies’ Involvement

On Friday, June 2, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal disaster assistance had been made available to the state of Missouri to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding from April 28 to May 11, 2017. Twenty-seven counties, including Douglas and Ozark, were included in the initial designation. It was said assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. Along about the same time the Small Business Administration (SBA) also got involved, announcing procedures to be followed by homeowners, renters and businesses seeking assistance. Since that time, the Herald has received numerous news releases from the various organizations, explaining the application process and telling how many people have received assistance since the declaration was announced. Those announcements vary from two or three a day to half a dozen in a week’s time. During the past week we received one release from Jefferson City announcing that seven additional counties have been declared eligible for FEMA Public Assistance. The same day or within a very short time, we received another from FEMA, saying eight more counties have been declared eligible for assistance through the Individuals and Households Program. Then last Thursday or Friday we received a news release from the Houston USDA office reporting that 24 Missouri counties have been declared Primary Natural Disaster Areas by the Department of Agriculture. That list also includes 28 additional counties in Missouri, as well 15 counties in Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas and Tennessee declared to be eligible as contiguous counties. However, within the list of eligible counties named by USDA, neither Douglas nor Ozark county is listed. A Herald staff member contacted the Houston USDA office for an explanation of the discrepancies within the designations by the various federal offices and no explanation could be given. The best rendering we can come up with is that there are different designations for homeowners, renters, business owners, and agriculture/farm operations. You will see in this newspaper three different articles – two from Jefferson City and one from Washington – telling about assistance that is available through FEMA’s PA or IA programs, or through USDA programs.