TABOR -- Although summer is in full swing across the state, many communities and individuals are still repairing the damage caused by the severe winter storms and flooding that occurred from mid-March to late April.
On June 7, federal disaster assistance became available for 15 counties in South Dakota. The declaration sent the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) into action. On Monday, one of five FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers opened in Tabor to help individuals in Bon Homme County receive assistance. The centers give individuals from affected counties the chance to work face-to-face with FEMA, U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) and state employees, asking questions and applying for federal assistance.
“We help people who are uninsured or underinsured, who are renters or homeowners, to apply for assistance,” said Pamela Saulsby, a spokeswoman for FEMA. “So far, over $580,000 have been approved to help survivors in our individual assistance program.”
The assistance grants the federal agency gives to individuals can vary in value and are used for a variety of expenses including home repairs, rental assistance, replacement of personal items and reimbursement for expenses survivors may have incurred to recover from the disaster.
The application requires a social security number, personal contact, bank and insurance information, a brief description of the damages and, later on, an inspection. An applicant should receive a notice within two weeks of the inspection regarding the financial assistance FEMA will provide, Saulsby told The Daily Republic on Monday.
If deemed ineligible, Saulsby said it’s important to know the decision is not final.
“Many times, survivors are declared ineligible for FEMA financial assistance because the damage was not substantial enough or they didn’t give enough information,” Saulsby said. “It doesn’t mean there aren’t other opportunities and resources that we can help you find.”
Individuals can appeal the decision or use other available resources including volunteer agencies and the SBA. During disasters, SBA works hand-in-hand with FEMA, providing low-interest loans to a variety of individuals.
“We make most of our loans out to homeowners, businesses, and renters to help long-term recovery,” SBA spokesman Roger Busch said. “We originate the loan, verify the damage, and fund the loan.”
Like the FEMA application process, Busch said the waiting period between the approval and receipt of the loan is efficient and timely.
“In the three weeks we’ve been here, we’ve already got some loans in the process,” Busch said.
Both Busch and Saulsby have seen the need for assistance in Bon Homme County. Although the flow of people through the Tabor center was slow to start on Monday, both organizations know people are still in need of assistance.
“We had people waiting to see us right at 9 a.m. when we opened,” Busch said.
The deadline to apply for federal assistance is Aug. 6 and until then FEMA and SBA will continue assisting those in South Dakota recovering from the winter storms and flooding.
“Based on preliminary damage assessments that came from the state, there was a lot of damage,” Saulsby said. “We will be here as long as the state says it needs assistance and help with coordinating resources for people in these communities.”
The FEMA recovery center in the Tabor Fire Hall will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday. The center will then move to the Charles Mix County 4-H Building in Lake Andes from July 8-11.