HOUGHTON — Is federal help on the way for flood victims of Houghton County? Initial assessments indicate that FEMA requirements were not met to provide federal financial aid for homeowners who were affected by the Father’s Day flood, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the red tape can’t be cut.
As Homeowners have been undoubtedly failed by their insurance policies, many are asking themselves and government officials how they are expected to pay for repairs caused by the June 17th storm.
Donations and volunteers have poured in from across the country, but with over 600 homes affected and 75 severely severely damaged, more assistance is needed.
“Based on what I’m hearing and what I saw today, I think the odds are certainly very very good that the criteria has been met. It will ultimately be upon to the president as to weather or not he declares this a disaster area. I’m certainly going to do everything I can, especially in my role as the ranking member of the sub-committee that actually oversees FEMA in the United States Senate. I’m going to be pushing very aggressively to get that declaration made,” said U.S. Senator Gary Peters.
Peters toured some of the affected areas this week with the accompaniment of local officials.
“I think the thing that’s very important for FEMA to understand is that you’re talking about small townships in a rural area that have very limited budgets,” said Peters. “We’re talking budgets of a couple hundred thousand dollars, and yet there are millions of dollars worth of damage. There isn’t a way that a community can do that on their own. Even the matching funds are going to be extremely difficult to get.”
Shortly after the flood, affected homeowners were told that nearly 4 million dollars was available from the Portage Health Foundation, but homeowners may need to borrow for additional assistance. As Peters made his way through the area, he believes that federal assistance is still possible.
“It’s one thing to get a briefing and to have people talk to you or show you photos, but to actually stand next to a house or a neighborhood that has been devastated.. By seeing the damage first hand it gives me context when I’m pushing FEMA. That helps me make that case.”
As the senator heads back to Washington to advocate for the people of the Keweenaw, Volunteers continue to do what they can on the local level.
“The next stage begins where really the long term construction has to occur. That’s very expensive. It’s very time consuming, and we don’t have a lot of time because the snow is going to be falling soon, so I’m going to be pushing to get the money once that declaration has been made to flow as quickly as possible.”
If federal assistance does become available, it could be very soon.
“If FEMA does approve anything after the declaration has been made, it kind of depends on the timeline but hopefully somewhere in. The 30 day range would be reasonable.”
Mean while road crews continue making repairs and volunteers are still needed. Those who wish to help can contact the Volunteer Reception Center at (906) 233-6621.