Over the last two weeks, the response to the flooding has been incredible in both small and big ways. The Scribner Trap Team spent Saturday helping their neighbors with clean up in Fremont. Nebraskans came together on #NebraskaStrong Day to give $441,919 towards flood relief through a partnership with the Nebraska Broadcasters and the American Red Cross. Nebraska and national celebrities—from Larry the Cable Guy and Hannah Huston to Justin Timberlake and Tori Kelly—have stepped up to support relief. Churches and volunteer organizations have helped get clean up underway. We will get through this together, and we will rebuild our state stronger than before.
Last week, the State of Nebraska submitted an expedited request for federal disaster assistance. In 2011, the federal government took a month to approve Nebraska’s request for federal assistance. This time, it only took two days for our request to get approved by President Donald Trump. We are grateful to President Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for their quick approval. It will make a big difference in how fast public assistance reaches our communities. In the initial disaster declaration, nine counties qualified for individual assistance and 65 counties for some type of public assistance. It is important to note that FEMA continues to review counties for individual and public assistance and they will be added as they qualify.
Even with the federal government’s support, the most powerful tool in our ability to recover quickly remains Nebraska’s commitment to the principle of neighbors helping neighbors. While the federal government will provide some assistance, our communities and neighbors can respond fastest to our most urgent needs. As we work together to recover and rebuild, here’s a few important things for all of us to keep in mind.
Volunteer & Donate: A lot of Nebraskans have expressed interest in helping out. As families return home, neighbors and volunteer organizations are helping to clean up. If you want to volunteer, I hope you will call the Salvation Army’s volunteer hotline at 402-898-6050 to register. Volunteers will be deployed as communities identify needs. Nebraskans have a generous spirit, and there are a lot of organizations seeking donations. As you consider where to put your resources, I encourage you to read the Attorney General’s “Donating with Care Checklist” before giving. You can find the resource at https://protectthegoodlife.nebraska.gov/.
Seeking Relief: The number one resource for Nebraskans impacted by the flood and seeking help is 211, a hotline managed by United Way. We also have launched a website allowing Nebraskans to submit and fulfill requests for relief. You can visit the website at http://www.nebraska.gov/nebraska-strong/.
Document Any Damage: Whether you have flood insurance or hope to apply for FEMA assistance, it is critical that you document any damage. Please take pictures before you clean up and make itemized lists of damage to your property, so you can show your insurance company and/or FEMA what losses you have incurred.
Apply for Assistance: Right now, nine counties have qualified for individual assistance with FEMA. They include Butler, Cass, Colfax, Dodge, Douglas, Nemaha, Sarpy, Saunders, and Washington. Additional counties may qualify as they are reviewed. If you live in one of the qualifying counties, please register with FEMA at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. After you apply, FEMA will visit your property to determine if you qualify for FEMA assistance. After FEMA inspects your property, they will send you a determination letter with their decision. More information about the inspection process can be found on FEMA’s website at www.fema.gov/what-happens-inspection.
Take Care of Yourself: We have all been talking about “Nebraska Strong” and how tough our communities are over the last couple weeks. This slogan isn’t a call to tough it out on our own—it’s an opportunity for us to come closer together as a community and a state. If you need help during this time, please reach out to family, friends, or one of the resources offered by the state or non-profit organizations. The Rural Response Hotline can be reached at 1-800-464-0258 and the Nebraska Family Helpline at 1-888-866-8660.
In the days ahead, the road to recovery will feel long, but together we will pull through this and rebuild bigger and better than before. It’s going to take our Nebraska grit and hard work to do this. But I know that when we get past this challenge and look back on this chapter in our history that we will remember this moment as one when Nebraska showed the world how to pull together. If you have thoughts you would like to share, I hope you will write me at email@example.com or call 402-471-2244.
Pete Ricketts is the governor of Nebraska.