As we continue to recover from flooding, the effects of our state’s most widespread natural disaster will be felt in the months and years to come. Even though great challenges lie ahead, Nebraskans have proven themselves time and again to be strong and resilient. No matter how tough the challenge, we rise to meet it. This time, we will do it again, and we will rebuild bigger and better than before.
One of the keys to Nebraska’s strong communities are our vibrant churches and faith traditions. That’s why I have declared Sunday, April 7, as a “Statewide Day of Prayer” in Nebraska. As Nebraskans roll up our sleeves and work together on recovery efforts, it is important that each of us ask God for wisdom in seeing and best responding to the needs around us. Whatever your tradition, Nebraskans are encouraged to lift our state up in prayer this weekend.
On Sunday and in the coming weeks, we are also encouraging churches, communities, organizations, and individuals who want to organize a volunteer effort to get involved. You can visit www.nebraskaimpact.com to learn more. Click the “Get Started” link at the top of the home page to register. A “how-to guide” can be found at www.nebraskaimpact.com/flood.
As we work together to rebuild, state agencies and private organizations continue to offer new resources. Here are some key updates about relief efforts by the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency), the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others.
ν Individual Assistance: Nebraskans in 15 counties and one tribe have qualified for Individual Assistance. They include Butler, Cass, Colfax, Dodge, Douglas, Nemaha, Saunders, Sarpy, Washington, Boone, Buffalo, Custer, Knox, Richardson, Thurston, and Santee Sioux Nation. Additional counties may qualify as they are reviewed. If you live in one of the qualifying counties, please register with FEMA at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. The deadline to register is May 20. So far, more than $7.7 million in IA has been disbursed and over $8 million has been approved by FEMA. If you receive a determination letter, make sure you read it closely.
ν Public Assistance: You may hear references to Public Assistance, also known as “PA,” in the coming weeks. This category is assistance for state and local government – not for individuals. NEMA is hosting eight briefings for public officials across the state this week on the PA program. Information about how to RSVP along with dates and times can be found at www.nema.nebraska.gov. Requests for public assistance must be made by April 20.
ν Housing: The U.S. Small Business Administration is working to connect Nebraskans with resources to rebuild their homes. To apply for a low-interest loan, you can visit disasterloan.sba.gov/ela, or call (800) 659-2955. For short-term assistance, the Nebraska Realtors Association has committed $600,000 to mortgage payment assistance and rental costs. For more information, visit www.nebraskarealtors.com.
ν Farmers and Ranchers: Resources have poured in from around the country from at least 33 states to help our farmers and ranchers. One of the greatest needs is hay. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture is coordinating hay drop-off and pick-up points around the state from Elkhorn to Columbus to Chadron. Information about hay relief and other ag-related relief efforts can be found at www.nda.nebraska.gov/resources/.
ν Document, Document, Document: One of my top reminders for folks who are impacted by the flooding and are working to put their lives back together: Before you repair your home or property, make sure you take lots of photos and make itemized lists of anything that is damaged. You will need this whether you are working with FEMA or a private insurance company.
ν Ask for Help: If you have been impacted by flooding, it may take a while to get back to normalcy. If you need help, please reach out. The 211 line continues to be the best way to make requests for relief. If you’re in a moment of crisis, don’t try to tough it out on your own. The Rural Response Hotline can be reached at 1-800-464-0258 and the Nebraska Family Helpline at 1-888-866-8660.
As we rebuild, these are just a few of the resources on hand. As I said in my column last week, Nebraska is great because our people help one another when we see a need. Government will play a big part in rebuilding, but the most powerful tool we have is stepping up to help our neighbors. As always, if you have questions about this topic or any other, you are always welcome to email me at [email protected] or call 402-471-2244.