When a disaster strikes, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is an important resource when needed. However, there are often misconceptions about how the help works.
There is a very specific process homeowners must go through before they can receive grant money from FEMA. Now, home and business owners in Jerauld, Lincoln, and Union counties are one step closer to getting that help.
When destructive weather hits, the state often calls on FEMA and the Small Business Administration to do what's called a preliminary damage assessment.
"During that assessment, the state, local, and federal teams go out, and they'll look at not all of the damage, but to look at some of the damage to be able to get a good picture of what's going on,” FEMA External Affairs Specialist Laurie Hassell said.
That step is complete for three South Dakota Counties that are dealing with damage from severe weather that hit June 13th through the 20th. The next step is to gather the information, assess how much the State can assist, and then send that information to Governor Daugaard.
"Who makes a determination whether or not to request a Presidential Disaster Declaration,” Hassell said.
If Daugaard decides to ask Washington for help, the regional and national FEMA offices will review the information before sending it to the President. If he grants the declaration, affected residents will be able to apply for grants for things such as safe housing and repairs. Next, an inspector visits the home or business to assess the damage.
"When that determination is made, and money is provided to them, they do receive a letter telling them what that money should be used for. It is for their definite disaster-related needs," Hassell said.
Hassell says FEMA cannot duplicate any benefits that have been provided by an individual's insurance company.
With another round of rain in the forecast, Lincoln County Emergency Manager Harold Timmerman says communities need to be prepared.
"Be ready to pump your basement again, and of course, be careful on every road that we have in our county system, because there's still a lot of work being done on them."
That's true for many communities throughout eastern KELOLAND.