FEMA Promises More Help to Western Kansas

At $360 million, storm is most costly disaster in Kansas history.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has completed a preliminary damage assessment for the late December winter storm that blanketed western Kansas. Damage to public infrastructure alone exceeds $360 million, primarily to public utilities and power lines, the agency reported last week.

That is in addition to an estimated $100 million lost due to cattle deaths, lost weight and lost milk from dairy operations, according to reports from various Kansas newspapers.

Forty-four Kansas counties were named in a major disaster declaration by President George W. Bush, making local governments and certain non-profit agencies eligible for federal disaster aid.

Kansas counties should be eligible for all categories of public assistance, including debris removal, emergency protective measures, road systems and bridges, water control facilities, public buildings and contents, public utilities and parks and recreational facilities, says Congressman Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

"Now that power has been restored and the emergency response aspects of the storm addressed, we are focused on reimbursing those local governments, utilities and other eligible applicants who have been crucial to keeping our residents safe as we experienced the worst storm in our history," says Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, Kansas Adjutant General.

Under the public assistance program, FEMA will pay 75% of eligible repair costs, with the remaining 25% divided between the state and local agencies.

FEMA's help goes beyond just debris removal and emergency protection, says U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan. Roberts announced Monday that FEMA has approved reimbursement costs up to 75% of all categories of public assistance.

"As we began to learn of the challenges the storm's aftermath would present to our state and local governments," Roberts says, "it became apparent that these funds were desperately needed to reimburse local governments that could not have foreseen such a catastrophe and the toll it would take on their resources."

"This federal assistance is critical for folks in rural communities because without it, they would be saddled with higher energy bills and taxes to make up for the storm's devastation," he says.

Since the storm, Senator Roberts personally met with President Bush and spoke to FEMA Director David Paulison about the critical need for aid.
In a speech on the Senate floor on January 8, Senator Roberts talked about the storm's effects on one Kansas community.

"The 850 people that live in Sharon Springs, Kansas cannot afford to clear the mounds of snow that currently cover six blocks of Main Street. The city government could not have known to budget for the 600 truckloads of snow they estimate it will take to clear just that area. They need their federal government's help," Roberts says.

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