Government & Politics

Missouri Gov. Parson requests federal disaster declaration for 13 flooded counties

Who’s to blame for the floods?

Residents of Craig, Mo., and Forest City, Mo., are frustrated over flooding.
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Residents of Craig, Mo., and Forest City, Mo., are frustrated over flooding.

Gov. Mike Parson asked President Donald Trump Wednesday to approve a major disaster declaration for 13 northwest Missouri counties inundated by last month’s floods.

If approved, the counties will be eligible for money to rebuild roads, bridges and other infrastructure. Preliminary reports, which are not complete in areas where water still stands, have already documented $25 million in public infrastructure damage and reimbursable emergency response costs.

At least one bridge -- U.S. Route 159 over Little Tarkio Creek -- has irreparable damage and must be replaced, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Parson declared a state of emergency on March 23. , which triggered the disaster relief process.

“It has now been well over a month after the flooding began, and some areas still can’t be accessed,” Parson said in a statement. “I am confident federal assistance will be forthcoming, and I greatly appreciate all the work that’s already being done by our faith-based and volunteer responders to help communities recover. Our state team and all our partners are committed to ensuring Missouri families, businesses, and communities rebuild.”

The entire Missouri Congressional delegation sent a letter to Trump to urge “prompt action.”

“Many of the affected communities have engaged in flood-fighting activities due to severe flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers,” the letter stated. “The severity and magnitude of the flooding has caused several communities to be evacuated and has resulted in the destruction of homes, farms, and businesses. The state and local governments continued to be burdened by the costs that have been incurred in the ongoing effort to protect life and property.”

In order for the counties to qualify, they had to reach individual damage thresholds. Missouri, as a state, had to wrack up more than $8.9 million in damage. Nebraska and Iowa, which have sustained an estimated $3 billion in damage, had federal disaster declarations approved March 21 and March 23, respectively.

Parson also asked that five of the 13 counties—Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Holt, and Platte—receive individual assistance, which will allow residents to apply for aid to pay for temporary housing, home repair and replacement of damaged belongings.

The Missouri Senate has included $13 million in the state budget, to be used as matching funds for federal disaster relief and rebuilding infrastructure.

The budget is still in under consideration by the Legislature and must be finalized by May 10.

Even if areas of Missouri are declared disaster zones, a $13 billion federal disaster relief aid package was not passed before Congress left for recess April 15. The impasse comes over more money for a food program for hurricane-struck Puerto Rico, which is supported by Democrats and has been rebuffed by Trump.

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has supported amending the bill to include coverage of aid to farmers for spoiled stored grain. Crop insurance only covers crops harvested in the same year and several farmers, facing a trade war, held on to their grain in the hopes of better prices.

This story was updated to include a letter from the Missouri Congressional delegation.

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Crystal Thomas covers Missouri politics for The Kansas City Star. An Illinois native and a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, she has experience covering state and local government.