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Obama OKs disaster aid for SD's fall blizzard

PIERRE — Fourteen South Dakota counties and two Indian reservations will receive federal financial help to recover from an October blizzard that closed roads, downed power lines and killed thousands of livestock.

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The public assistance is made available through a presidential disaster declaration signed Friday by President Barack Obama.

Preliminary estimates showed nearly $38 million in damages to public and private nonprofit property. Costs included debris removal, repair of rural electric cooperative power lines and repair of roads and other infrastructure damaged by storm-related flooding in the 14-county area. Other costs include snow removal in six counties with record snowfalls.

The presidential declaration also activates the disaster unemployment program, which provides some funds for self-employed individuals, such as ranchers, who have lost their income because of the disaster.

“Local and FEMA officials worked quickly with our Office of Emergency Management staff to provide me the information to request federal assistance,” South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard said. “The presidential declaration came equally quickly, and it will help our impacted communities recover from this devastating blizzard as rapidly as possible. While the disaster unemployment program will provide some help for our producers, what they really need is for Congress to work with the same urgency our state did and pass a new farm bill.”

Counties eligible for assistance are Butte, Corson, Custer, Dewey, Fall River, Haakon, Harding, Jackson, Lawrence, Meade, Pennington, Perkins, Shannon and Ziebach, as well as the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation within Dewey and Ziebach counties and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation within Shannon County.

A disaster declaration authorizes the federal government to provide recovery assistance for up to 75 percent of the eligible costs.

-Source: Office of Gov. Dennis Daugaard