By Governor Mike Johanns
June 1, 2004
Dear Nebraska Neighbors:
Since severe storms, tornadoes, hail, and flooding hit Nebraska on May 22, many people have worked tirelessly at the state level to reach out with assistance and to obtain federal disaster assistance for those struggling to recover.
As part of our efforts, I made an expedited request to President Bush and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to declare the hardest-hit counties of Cass, Gage, Lancaster, and Saline federal disaster areas. Thankfully, our request was given prompt attention and was approved in what must be record time.
Since that initial request was made, state and federal officials have worked to complete a preliminary damage assessment for both pubic and individual assistance in other counties that suffered damage from the severe weather. The results of that analysis led me to make an additional request to FEMA to add 26 counties to the existing disaster declaration. It is my hope that this request will also be approved quickly so that local governments and individuals can obtain much-needed federal assistance and begin the process of rebuilding their lives.
Counties included in the request for public assistance are Adams, Blaine, Boone, Clay, Cuming, Dodge, Jefferson, Thayer, Washington, Webster and York. Counties included in the request for individual assistance are Adams, Clay, Douglas and Thayer and the neighboring counties of Buffalo, Butler, Dodge, Fillmore, Franklin, Hall, Hamilton, Jefferson, Johnson, Kearney, Nuckolls, Otoe, Pawnee, Sarpy, Saunders, Seward, Washington, Webster and York.
Neighboring counties are listed because of their proximity to areas that sustained heavy damage. I encourage residents in those counties who experienced damage from the storms to apply for assistance as those applications will determine whether the degree of damage meets the federal threshold.
Public disaster assistance means that FEMA will reimburse local governments 75 percent of the approved costs for debris removal, emergency services related to the disaster, and repairing or replacing damaged public facilities such as roads, bridges, buildings, and utilities. The state and local governments split the remaining cost. Individual disaster assistance can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs, and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration are also available to cover residential and business losses not covered by insurance.
For those agriculture producers who suffered pasture or other forages losses from the storms or the on-going drought, I encourage you to check out the assistance available through the Nebraska Department of Agriculture's Hay and Forage Hotline. The purpose of this free service is to connect buyers with sellers of hay, pasture land, and other types of forage. For additional information, visit www.agr.state.ne.us/hayhot/hayhotline.htm or call toll-free 800-422-6692.
As assistance continues to grow and volunteers travel great distances to assist in clean-up efforts, it bears repeating how enormously proud I am to be the Governor of this great state. Everyone who calls Nebraska home knows how special this state is and what generosity is all about. When friends and neighbors hit rough times, Nebraskans pitch in to help. When a job needs to be done, Nebraskans roll up their sleeves and go to work. And when a need is there, large or small, Nebraskans find a way to meet it.
Time and time again, both as Governor and before, I have seen inspiring examples of Nebraskans giving of themselves to make our "Nebraska United" a better place to live. This is no exception. To all of those who have volunteered and contributed time, money, and goods, words cannot express my gratitude.