Disaster Recovery in South Dakota

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Last year in South Dakota, federal disaster declarations were declared in all but three counties:  Corson, Harding, and Stanley.  In all, four separate disaster requests were approved at the federal level, spanning from mid-March to the end of September.  Counties submit disaster declaration requests to the State Office of Emergency Management to help recover costs of public infrastructure damage from such things as blizzards, flooding, and tornadoes.

The governor then submits those declarations for a Presidential Disaster Declaration if thresholds are met.  If approved, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and state officials will work with the affected cities, counties, townships, or tribes to document infrastructure damage and develop estimates of repair costs.

In the governor’s budget address, a proposal was unveiled to create a new advanced funding program for local governments to help front the costs prior to receiving FEMA funding for the projects.  The governor is asking the legislature for $9.9 million to help fund the recovery efforts.

FEMA Public Assistance funds are used in combination with state and local money to repair public infrastructure.  The current cost breakdown is 75% federal share, 15% local government share, and 10% state share.  The governor is proposing allowing local governments to receive an advance from the state equal to the 75% federal share plus the applicant’s 15% share.  As FEMA money comes in, the local government would reimburse the federal share to the state.  The 15% share would be considered a loan, with a two percent interest rate, payable within seven years.

There is also an effort to mitigate potential future disasters.  The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program is used for such things as drainage improvement projects, power line burials, relocating structures out of a designated flood plain, tornado saferoom construction, and similar projects to better protect people and property.  In the past, these projects had a 75% federal / 25% local government match.  The governor is proposing to make these projects also eligible for the 75% federal, 15% local government, and 10% state cost share.

One more related program is the Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program.  Last year, South Dakota received $1.2 million in PDM funds.  The PDM program awards planning and project grants to states, tribes, city, county, and township governments, as well as certain private non-profit organizations such as rural electric cooperatives.  The governor is also proposing to have the state help with the cost-share match required of local governments.

More information about these programs is available from the SD Department of Public Safety at https://dps.sd.gov/emergency-services/emergency-management.