Wessington Springs residents concerned over distribution of funds
WESSINGTON SPRINGS -- Some residents affected by a tornado that ripped through Wessington Springs in June are frustrated because they believe having insurance will restrict some of their relief money.
Those who spoke during a Monday evening meeting said several people are upset that some affected will seemingly receive more money because they didn't have insurance on their property when the tornado hit. Those who had insurance have already started rebuilding or moving on and feel like they will not receive as much money or no money from a relief fund, some residents said at the meeting.
"Our goal is to help your community recover the best it can," said Lisa Adler, statewide disaster representative for Lutheran Social Services.
Adler spoke to about 80 people at the meeting, which was held in Wessington Springs. She assured the community that the fund with nearly $185,000 will be distributed to those in need. However, long-term recovery is a lengthy process, she said, adding that Wessington Springs' recovery is going much faster than some others she's worked with.
The best way to distribute funds from the Wessington Springs Community Fund is directly to vendors, Adler said. For example, if someone needed help paying a mortgage, the community fund committee could decide to make a payment directly to the mortgage lender.
"You get into a gray area when you write a check to a person," Adler said. "Writing it to the vendor makes it clean for the community foundation."
Complaints of those who have insurance, which covered damage caused by the disaster, are that they feel they will not receive any money because they have no unmet needs. Adler said someone who was able to replace their home and basic possessions through insurance money may still have unmet needs.
"Things not covered by your insurance are considered unmet needs," she said. "It's those things we need to discuss with you."
Adler added that during the October blizzard Atlas in the Black Hills, the committee that oversees the fund set up for those affected was able to give out an across-the-board amount to all affected. Then, the committee provided funds to those who applied for unmet needs. She said the Wessington Springs committee could do something similar.
Other residents voiced concern over giving case management workers their financial information in order to be considered for any relief through the fund. Adler explained the government needs paperwork and financial information, but assured the crowd all information is kept confidential.
The Wessington Springs Community Fund committee uses only base financial information from the applications, Adler said. Those who don't plan to rebuild or lived in rental housing can apply and the case management workers will figure whether they can get money to pay for an apartment, for example.
"We can assess those needs and determine what your needs are," Adler said. "There are small funds for those who need medications or money for rent."
She emphasized if those affected don't fill out information with case workers, they are cutting themselves off from future available resources.
The Rev. Kathy Chesney, vice president of United Methodist Disaster Response, reiterated to the crowd that the recovery process is moving quickly in Wessington Springs, but sympathized with the frustration of the slow-moving process. She asked residents to be patient and visit with case management workers about any concerns.
Anyone who wants to apply for funds through the Wessington Springs Community Fund must apply by Sept. 13.