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Parts of Bellevue were among the wide swathes of the state hit by devastating flooding in March 2019. Thanks to the quick actions of impacted residents and first responders, there were no deaths reported in Bellevue. We mourn deeply for those who lost their lives across our state and in Iowa.
This update is to share information about short-term emergency assistance available, options to volunteer and donate in our community, and information about long-term recovery efforts. Please share this information with anyone you know who may find it useful. My office will continue to update this page with new information as it becomes available.
[Updated 5/24/19] Governor Pete Ricketts announced the release of a consolidated guide for Nebraskans in need of disaster relief resources. The guide was created as a reference for Nebraskans to utilize as a resource based on the state’s experience following historic flooding that devastated many areas of the state in March. The guide provides resource summaries, hotlines, and other contact information for more than two dozen community organizations as well as state and federal agencies involved in recovery assistance. It is available by clicking here. Printed booklets may also be requested by sending an email to email@example.com or by calling (402) 471-7421.
The disaster relief guide is a comprehensive list of available resources, but I still want to highlight some of the key places you can contact to find assistance:
Caring for your mental and emotional health in the wake of a disaster is also critical. The federal government operates a Disaster Distress Hotline, which you can contact by calling 1-800-985-5990 or texting TalkWithUs to 66746. The CDC’s website has additional information about coping in the wake of a disaster HERE. Nebraska also operates the 24-hour Family Helpline at 1-888-866-8660 if you have a child who is having a hard time coping with the flood’s impact on their lives or has other behavioral health needs. The Nebraska Rural Response Hotline, which specializes in helping rural residents who are feeling overwhelmed with stress, depression, or other mental health issues, can be reached at 1-800-262-0258.
[Updated 6/6/19] Following the passage of LB512, property owners who suffer significant property damage from a natural calamity, such as this spring’s flooding, may be eligible for property tax relief. A calamity is defined as a disastrous event, including, but not limited to, a fire, an earthquake, a flood, a tornado, or other natural event which significantly affects the assessed value of the property. Destroyed real property does not include property suffering significant property damage that is caused by the owner of the property.
The deadline to apply for destroyed property tax relief is July 15th, so you will need to act expeditiously to turn it in. The Sarpy County Assessor has posted the form that needs to be filled out, along with additional information, here: https://www.sarpy.com/offices/assessor
The form on the Sarpy County Assessor’s at the link above is the same for all Nebraskans with damaged real property, but you’ll need to turn the form in to the assessor with jurisdiction over the county in which your property is located. If you have questions about the process, contact your County Assessor’s office.
Organizations affiliated with the Nebraska Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NEVOAD), such as Great Plains United Methodist, Southern Baptist and Team Rubicon, have been working for weeks to clear out mud, debris and flood damaged materials in affected homes. These groups advocate using proper cleaning materials and techniques for effective mold removal.
Mold is a common problem after flooding and can cause serious health issues for people living in proximity to it, according to the St. Bernard Project Mold Remediation Guide which is available online at http://sbpusa.org/public/uploads/pdfs/SBP_MoldRemediationGuide_20180927.pdf. Molds are naturally occurring species of fungus that grows best in warm, damp conditions – conditions exactly like those commonly found in flooded homes. Mold reproduces by means of tiny spores that can float through the air and are typically green or black in color. Molds have tiny branches and roots, so they grow both on top of and into materials like wood.
A fungicide and wire brushes are needed to remove mold.
In Nebraska, fungicidal disinfectant can be obtained free of charge for flood clean up at:
Homeowners still in need of clean-up assistance can call the Crisis Clean Up Hotline at 833-556-2476. In addition, homeowners can find more information at: http://www.heartlandchurchnetwork.com/flood-relief.html
“Improper cleaning can result in mold resurfacing after the homeowner has spent a great deal of time and money to rebuild, said Mark Coffin of Omaha Habitat for Humanity. “We don’t want people to have to tear out drywall a second time.”
According to Coffin, mold must be effectively cleared before rebuilding can begin. Representatives of NEVOAD recommend the following mold removal tips:
“A pressure-wash with a 3000 psi pressure washer is the fastest, most efficient way to do the manual cleaning step,” Cumpton said. “Then, push excess water to the drain or sump pump. Apply sanitizer while wood is still wet.”
Do not restore drywall until all materials have dried completely. Drying of all affected areas is necessary before restoration. More information can be found in the Texas A&M Extension article, “Controlling Mold Growth After the Storm” at https://texashelp.tamu.edu/controlling-mold-growth-after-the-storm/
A moisture meter can be used to test the moisture content of studs and sheathing before replacing insulation. Wood products specialists recommend that wood have no more than 14 to 15 percent moisture by weight before closing a wall.
[Information updated 6/27/19] June 19th was the deadline for homeowners, renters and business owners in counties designated for federal assistance to register for Individual Assistance. As long as you registered your household by that date, however, you can still submit claims for damage after June 19th. If you have questions about the process, contact FEMA via one of the avenues listed below.
Counties that qualify for Individual Assistance are: Antelope, Boone, Boyd, Buffalo, Burt, Butler, Cass, Colfax, Cuming, Custer, Dodge, Douglas, Hall, Holt, Howard, Knox, Madison, Nance, Nemaha, Pierce, Platte, Richardson, Saline, Santee Indian Reservation, Sarpy, Saunders, Stanton, Thurston, Washington. Individual assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. Information about the Individual Assistance program can be found at HERE that answers some common questions. or by calling 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7:00am to 10:00pm CT seven days a week until further notice. FEMA also has a FAQ posted
** One important message about securing FEMA funds: make sure to thoroughly document your home’s flood damage with pictures BEFORE you begin the cleanup process. You will need proof that the damage was caused by the flood. Sarpyflood.org posted the graphic below (found under the “Documenting Contents” tab) with a list of the kinds of pictures you should think about taking.
The NEMA representative my office spoke to said that a state Long-Term Recovery Group of businesses, non-profits, and government entities are often the ones providing the most direct rebuilding relief after emergencies. The 211 network will also be involved in referring individuals to those long-term recovery efforts once they are organized. I therefore encourage everyone who is affected by these floods to keep in touch with 211 for the most up-to-date list of available assistance, even as you begin the process of determining whether you are eligible for FEMA’s direct assistance.
Veterans and their dependents may be eligible for Nebraska Veterans Aid for expenses incurred due to the flooding. This includes food, clothing, emergency housing such as hotel accommodations, and replacement of eligible flood-damaged items necessary for life safety. You can find more information about that program at the Nebraska VA’s website HERE. Applications must be filled out through your county Veteran Service Office. Sarpy County’s VSO can be reached at 402-593-2203 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can look up information for all of the county VSOs HERE.
[Information added 3/28/19] The Internal Revenue Service has announced that individuals who reside or have a business in Butler, Cass, Colfax, Dodge, Douglas, Nemaha, Sarpy, Saunders, and Washington counties may qualify for tax deadline relief. You can find the IRS news release with full details about the disaster tax deadline extension HERE; if you have questions, I encourage you to contact the IRS at 866-562-5227 or your tax preparer if you have one. Certain deadlines falling on or after March 9, 2019 and before July 31, 2019, are granted additional time to file through July 31, 2019. This includes 2018 individual income tax returns and payments normally due on April 15, 2019. It also includes the quarterly estimated income tax payments due on April 15, 2019 and June 17, 2019. Eligible taxpayers will also have until July 31, 2019 to make 2018 IRA contributions. In addition, penalties on payroll and excise tax deposits due on or after March 9, 2019, and before March 25, 2019, will be abated as long as the deposits were made by March 25, 2019.
In conjunction with the IRS relief announcement, the Nebraska Tax Commissioner announced a similar extension. You can find more information and resources from the Department of Revenue (DOR) HERE. DOR granted the extension and a waiver of penalties and interest for late returns or payments of individual, corporate, and estate and trust income taxes, and also for partnership and S corporation returns until July 31, 2019. This relief will be automatically granted solely to taxpayers whose business or primary residential location is in Butler, Cass, Colfax, Dodge, Douglas, Nemaha, Sarpy, Saunders, and Washington counties and was subject to mandatory or optional evacuation due to the natural disaster and only applies to taxes administered by the DOR. DOR will work with businesses and individuals regarding any tax returns and taxes due. For more information or if you have questions, you can contact DOR at 800-742-7474 (NE and IA) or 402-471-5729 or visit the DOR website linked above.
Legal Aid of Nebraska is operating a Disaster Relief Project. If you are in need of legal assistance related to the flooding, you can apply online by going to lawhelpne.legalaidofnebraska.org or by calling the Disaster Relief Hotline at 1-844-268-5627. If you are an attorney and want to volunteer to help disaster survivors, please apply HERE. Common legal issues that may arise during or after a disaster include: insurance issues (submitting claims, avoiding public adjuster fraud, negotiating insurance settlements, and filing an appeal); government benefits (applying for benefits and/or filing an appeal for denial of benefits, benefit award disagreement, or overpayment notices); housing for renters (identifying your rights as a renter of a damaged unit, facilitating communication with your landlord, negotiating early termination of a lease, resolving issues with renter’s insurance claims, and recovering personal items from damaged rental units; housing for owners (negotiating payments, understanding your options in real estate contracts, and obtaining disaster assistance); contractor fraud issues (hiring a contractor and avoiding fraud, reviewing work contracts/estimates, obtaining proper work permits for repairs, passing city inspection, and recognizing and preventing predatory lending); or document recovery (replacing lost documents like driver’s licenses, SS cards, EBT cards, etc. and replacing immigration documents). You can find Legal Aid’s Disaster Relief Project website HERE.
The US Chamber of Commerce is operating a Disaster Help Desk for Business at 1-888-692-4943. You can find more about the Disaster Help Desk at the Chamber’s website HERE.
The US Small Business Administration (SBA) offers recovery loans. Businesses of any size and private, nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets. These loans cover losses that are not fully covered by insurance or other recoveries. For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private, nonprofit organizations of any size, SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any property damage.
Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information, and download applications at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 or email email@example.com for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing may call 800-877-8339.
The deadline to apply for property damage is June 19, 2019. The deadline to apply for economic injury is Dec. 23, 2019.
If you want to help our Bellevue community with donations of time or money, I know of two primary resources tracking those opportunities. You can check the sarpyflood.org website mentioned above. Second, the Bellevue First organization has created a map of local shelters, donation centers, and meal services. You can find that map HERE. That map is being continually updated, but I recommend you call ahead to make sure that the organization is open and accepting donations. Various organizations may also be in need of different items or kinds of assistance, so if you call they can direct you to what they need most. I understand that Bellevue Christian Center is the main collection and distribution site for relief donations in Bellevue and Sarpy County. They have been updating their Facebook page with their most (and least) needed items.
For those outside of Bellevue, 211 can direct you to local organizations providing assistance. Many communities have also created Facebook pages or other central information points you may be able to check. You can check the Governor’s Nebraska Strong website for statewide volunteer opportunities, and the Journal Star has collected a list of statewide assistance and recovery organizations that are accepting donations HERE.
These floods have caused untold damage and suffering, and I will do all I can to assist in the recovery efforts. Bellevue, Sarpy, and the state of Nebraska are full of strong and resilient people. We also have untold numbers of people who have given so much of themselves to help others. Recovery will not be easy, and it is up to all of us to put our best efforts toward rebuilding our communities and supporting our neighbors.
All the best,