EMA Events and Activities

Kansas' Major Disaster Declaration:  What That Really Means

About a month ago, headlines buzzed with the news that President Trump had approved a federal disaster declaration for Kansas. That sounded like good news for our many residents who have been slogging through flood-soaked properties since early May. But the excitement was doused when folks learned that that “emergency declaration” didn’t come with any help for homeowners, renters or business owners – it simply allowed the feds to help the locals with emergency measures like sandbagging, water rescues, and opening Red Cross shelters.

And then the headlines lit up again a few days ago, when word began to spread that the President had approved a much-anticipated Major Disaster Declaration for the state of Kansas. And there was Butler County, listed in black-and-white. Again, that sounded like really good news. The information that was published by the White House, FEMA and media outlets was light on details, but it talked about help with flood repairs. And some of it referenced “public assistance,” which also sounded encouraging. In the world of disasters and FEMA funding, though, that term means something different than what you might expect. Most FEMA disaster assistance is funneled through two distinct pathways – one of which was approved for Kansas and one of which was not:

1. Public Assistance

This pathway provides funding to help pay for costs and damages sustained by governments. So…. funds to help rebuild flood-damaged roads, funds to replace washed-out bridges, funds to repair damages to publicly-funded facilities (i.e. schools/parks/libraries/courthouses), funds to cover the cost of the grader and dump truck that cleared debris…and so on. The “PA” pathway opens up when “public” damages at the county and state levels exceed specific thresholds. This is the type of Major Disaster Declaration that was granted to the State of Kansas.

2. Individual Assistance

This is the pathway for FEMA to assist private citizens with some of their disaster costs, providing funds toward things like temporary housing or property repairs. (This assistance can also arrive through low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration.) This pathway can open up when the amount of uninsured private property damage exceeds set thresholds (different from the “PA” thresholds). This type of disaster declaration was not granted to (or requested by) the State of Kansas because the state hasn’t been able to meet those thresholds.

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we also realize that there are some information gaps out there that are causing frustration. The bottom line is that there is no FEMA funding currently earmarked to assist with the clean-up and repairs that have plagued many residents since the rain started falling. Locally, though, there are some amazing volunteer and non-profit organizations that have been trying to help put a dent in the disaster. If you do still need assistance with things like removal of damaged drywall or spraying for mold, the United Way is working to connect needs with available help, using their 2-1-1 line. Not sure if your specific need is covered by their program? Make the call and at least ask the question – if they know of a resource, they will point you in that direction.

Below is the declaration map as of June 20th. Some counties are still in the process of having their damages reviewed so they can be added to the list…

DR 4449__KS 2019