New Nebraska Disaster Policy Will Give Cities Faster Repayment

March 9, 2015

The Nebraska Emergency Agency will change its policy so that communities rebuilding after a disaster can get reimbursed faster.

The Omaha World-Herald reports that the new procedure will reimburse communities after each individual project has been completed, rather than waiting until all of a community’s rebuilding projects were finished. The requirement to finish all projects placed a burden on smaller communities that had to take out loans and pay interest for projects while waiting for reimbursement.

Communities have been waiting for more than three years for repayment after floods in 2011. Until a couple of months ago, the state agency and FEMA still owed a total of $7.2 million. Omaha is still waiting on the largest share, $3.6 million, of that reimbursement.

Bryan Tuma, the agency’s assistant director, said that the money should be distributed by the end of the year.

“We have closed out a number of projects,” Tuma said. “Things are looking much better than they were a couple of months ago. We’re making progress.”

FEMA pays 75 percent of project costs and the state pays 12.5 percent. Local communities must cover the rest.

The agency’s new policy will be similar to that of Iowa Homeland Security & Emergency Management.

“We wanted to modify our process to be more responsive to communities,” Tuma said.

Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, director of the Nebraska agency and adjutant general of the Nebraska National Guard, says he plans to use the federal money to hire one or two people to help make inspections quicker, and reduce the number of delays in getting projects reviewed for FEMA approval.

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