La Crosse County still waiting on flooding financial aid

La Crosse County still waiting on...

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Over the past two years, massive floods swept across Western Wisconsin, leaving communities in La Crosse County waiting on funding for repair projects. 

One storm in September 2016 had estimated damages topping $1 million. In August 2017, a storm left $4.25 million in damages in La Crosse County, according to data from La Crosse County Emergency Management. 

In order to receive additional help to respond to these disasters, the affected municipalities needed to first declare a local state of emergency. 

"At a state level, once they realize that several communities are impacted or one community is seriously impacted, then the governor can declare that, too," said Keith Butler, emergency management coordinator for La Crosse County.

Lori Getter, crisis communications manager for Wisconsin Emergency Management, said there is a big misconception about what that declaration means.

"That does not mean that FEMA is here and we have a disaster declaration and that there will be funding for individuals whose homes may have been flooded or destroyed or to local governments," Getter said. 

Instead, members of the National Guard and other agencies may be mobilized. But the declaration does pave the way for potential funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"In that state of emergency, we are saying that this has exceeded local limits, [so] we're using state resources," Getter said. 

Officials need to then calculate the total cost of damages for public property that was not insured. For Wisconsin to even ask for federal aid, that number would have to be over $8 million.

The costs to rebuild roads, bridges or public buildings would then have to be paid for, often by small communities. 

"A township with an operating budget of $10,000 or $15,000 can not afford a $50,000 road repair," Butler said.

Across the state, there are many times when storms don't result in such high cost damage repairs. In those cases, communities can apply for financial aid through the Public Assistance program or the Wisconsin Disaster Fund.

If the community does receive the aid, it take years before they get reimbursement. 

"We're still trying to finish the repairs and starting to get the money back to the communities that have such awful awful loses," Butler said.

Getter said that financial assistance usually does not cover individual claims. She suggests that people speak to an insurance agent to see what coverage would be best for their property. 


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