Dingell Assures Flood Victims In Washtenaw County And Wayne County Help Is Available

Jul 23, 2021

Rep. Debbie Dingell
Credit Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy / flickr.com

Washtenaw and Wayne Counties were devastated by heavy rains and flooding during late June storms.  FEMA and the federal Small Business Administration are setting up camp in the area to help those in need. 12th District Congressional representative Debbie Dingell joined WEMU's David Fair to highlight the  available assistance while pushing for approval of the federal infrastructure bill. 


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DINGELL FLOOD ASSISTANCE TOWN HALL:

Friday, July 23 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. ET for a virtual town hall to discuss resources for MI-12 residents impacted by recent flooding in Southeast Michigan. Dingell will be joined by FEMA, SBA, and state and local officials to provide the most up-to-date information for residents and businesses needing relief.  Join the LIVE event on Zoom by registering here

FAQ: Michigan Flooding & FEMA Assistance

How do I apply for FEMA assistance?

·  Individuals in Washtenaw and Wayne Counties can apply with FEMA the following ways:

o    Apply online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.

o    Constituents may call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585).

o    By downloading the FEMA Mobile App

What documents do I need to open a FEMA assistance case?

·  To register with FEMA, you will need your household address, insurance information (if available), current contact information, your social security number and description of the damage.

Do I need to be a U.S. citizen to apply for FEMA assistance?

·  To register for FEMA assistance, at least one person in your household must be a U.S. citizen, even if that person is a minor.

How long will this process take to upload my documents?

·  If you have all the correct documentation, it should take about 10 minutes to open and submit a case.

Do I need to take pictures of the damage to be considered for FEMA assistance?

·  No, FEMA does not require photos of the damage to be considered for any assistance, though cost estimates and/or receipts for the damaged items is helpful.

What happens after I complete my FEMA registration?

·  If you report your home is not livable, sanitary and safe when you register, it may be necessary for FEMA to perform an inspection of the damaged property. FEMA inspectors will contact you to meet at the address where the damage was reported. Due to COVID-19, inspections are being conducted from outside of your home, with the inspector following current CDC guidance. The inspector will not enter the home and will validate what happened by questioning you about the damage. If applicants have the necessary technology, the inspector will ask to do a video verification of disaster-caused damage by using their mobile device to walk through the home.   

·  After your home inspection has taken place, a record of the disaster-caused damage is given to FEMA. From that record your eligibility for disaster assistance will be determined.

·  After eligibility is determined, individuals who opt for direct deposit FEMA payments may receive the relief in as little as 24 hours.  Individuals who opt for checks or additional options will receive the relief in 10-14 days after eligibility is determined.

·  Continue to stay in contact with FEMA via 1-800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585) regarding your case and for any appeals.

What do I do if I discover more damage to my home from the late June floods after my inspection?

·  Call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585) to report the additional damage and update your case.  

Is the FEMA assistance the same as flood insurance?

·  No, FEMA assistance is limited to costs to make your home livable, sanitary and safe.  

Can my small business receive FEMA assistance?

There will be no FEMA assistance to for profit entities. Please go to the Small Business Administration for assistance. 

TRANSCRIPTION:

David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and I'm David Fair. And today we're going to talk a bit about flood relief, new legislation aimed at protecting the health of the public and our environment and on infrastructure with local investment in broadband Internet expansion. Joining us once again for our Friday conversation is the U.S. House representative from Michigan's 12th Congressional District. And so glad to have you back, Debbie Dingell.

Debbie Dingell: It's good to be with you, David.

David Fair: It's been well over a week now since President Biden declared that Washtenaw and Wayne County is eligible for disaster relief following the damage and flooding caused by those storms of June 25 and 26. I know you had opportunity to meet with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after they took a tour of the local destruction. What did they tell you?]

Debbie Dingell: So I've seen a lot of time with FEMA. It was very clear they were on the ground two weeks ago. The storm, it had been two weeks. They came into the ground. They inspected homes, not every home. And it was clearly enough to see there was damage that following Wednesday I was with them that Thursday, Friday, Saturday, the following Wednesday. The governor filed the formal request for assistance to the President for an emergency disaster area. And, in that letter, she said that she thought that up to 60,000 people were likely to apply. And Thursday, the president issued--it was a week ago last Thursday. So it was last Thursday, a week ago yesterday--the President declared a national emergency here--or a federal emergency, I'm sorry-- and FEMA's been working since then to get centers up to help people to be able to answer questions.

David Fair: Now, the last time the Detroit area had a major storm and damage and flooding that required federal assistance, it took more than a month after the declaration for the money to begin flowing in to provide the assistance. Are we moving more quickly this time around? [00:02:02][15.2]

Debbie Dingell: Well, first of all, we're moving more quickly around because no one's ever seen a disaster be declared this fast. I have to say, I have to thank the president, you know, his people. I was talking to Ron Klain and other senior people the Saturday up the flood, and they wanted to make clear that they were going to be available. The White House and FEMA people were monitoring what was happening the whole time. And this did happen. We had that declaration within three weeks of the actual floods because you've got to go through a process and document. I think it's been a stressful week. I have to say that I know that myself and one of my colleagues has been very intense about getting help in to help our people. They are hopeful to have the centers where people will be working out of open by..I have a town hall tonight, so we want to be able to announce where they are and that they're up and running by tonight and they will be open tomorrow, and there will be one in Washtenaw County, and then there will be one in several places in Wayne County.

David Fair: Both FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration have said September 13th, that's the deadline for area nonprofits, homeowners and renters to apply for assistance. Are there going to be caps on what these federal agencies can provide in terms of financial relief?

Debbie Dingell: I want to be really clear as we are talking about this. That people need to have realistic expectations. FEMA is not an insurance plan. So and I don't want to give people, I mean, it's not going to replace everything. It's a tool in the toolbox. And I really want to be careful about using any figure because FEMA knows how to help people in an emergency. So SBA will be there. There'll be things that they'll be able to do. And they're also connected to other resources that can help people. So what's really important is that people call and register so that they are registered with them and that they learn how to answer and have what they need to be able to show what the damage was. And things have changed already on the ground. Last week, they thought they would be doing most of this virtually, and it's going to be modified for most people. So, you'll call. Hopefully, someone from FEMA will call you back very quickly. They're targeting 24 hours, but an inspector will be assigned to you, and the inspector is going to come to your home, not go in your home, but discuss with you the damage that's been done to your home and ask you to show them what you can. Not everybody has technology. But show the damage, try to have receipts if you can, has the insurance company made any payment, all of that kind of date is going to be needed.

David Fair: Our conversation with Michigan's 12th District congressional representative Debbie Dingell continues on Eighty-Nine one WEMU. A lot of the flooding we saw both in area homes and on the roadways and highway system can be attributed to old and insufficient storm water and sewage infrastructure. A test vote on the federal infrastructure bill failed in the Senate this week, and its future is uncertain at best. What now?

Debbie Dingell: So I have talked to many of my colleagues in the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, and I believe all of them believe that. A matter of fact, Amy Klobuchar was speaking to a number of my women constituents this week, and she said she thought that something would get done. There's a lot and most people do not expect the vote to pass on Wednesday. So to the extent that Senator Schumer voted no, because we all know that the Senate has some very complicated. Some would say antiquated rules. And so Senator Schumer will be able to ask for reconsideration of that. And it is expected that will happen at the beginning of next week. Both my Senate Democratic colleagues are working very hard to get something together and think that something will pass there next week. I hope so, because we're what's happening. We have. But it's raining again as I talk to you, David, I was OK when I left last weekend, but I had water in the basement when I got back here yesterday. So I had escaped the first two rains. But rain does not seem to be leaving this area. And it is very clear that we are not having once in a lifetime floods or this for us in Michigan, it seems like, are having them every couple of days or every couple of weeks. And the West has got the wildfires, the very, very high temperatures. It's hurricane season. Again, we have an infrastructure that's 100 years old. We have got to update our infrastructure. We need to fix our roads and bridges. And the pandemic has taught us the importance of broadband and making sure that everybody has equal access to broadband and the need to replace lead in pipes. I think there's a great agreement on this. And I think we can get to a bipartisan bill that was know what's in the Senate bill, which bothers me. And I want to see it, too. But I do believe that we will get this done. There's an old saying, I know that I'm a little more seasoned than some when I had to remind some of my legislator colleagues that Will Rogers said people with weak stomachs shouldn't watch sausage or laws being made.

David Fair: Now, there was some good news on the infrastructure front this week. As you mentioned, broadband is very important. And you announced yesterday, Ann Arbor SPARK has been awarded two point four million dollars to build 20 miles of underground fiber optic cable, better connecting the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti corridor. But you also know there are more rural portions of the county and in your district that remain without such service. So what's the next step in getting that taken care of?

Debbie Dingell: Well, we do have broadband and that infrastructure bill. And I I guess I actually care for the problem solvers, which is a group of Republican and Democratic members of the broadband task force. And I actually think that is one area that there is just agreement that we have to expand broadband to rural and urban areas. This country has to have it. So I was excited to be able to have gotten that grant, be able to announce it yesterday. But this is just something that we clearly need to do for to put everybody on a level playing field. Even as I'm talking to, I've been pretty intense and laser focused and others say use the word tenacious, not the word I want to use someday, some days, because I'm being pretty laser focused and intense with people. When these monies come, I sometimes use the word if, but I think we will get them. We have to be ready to file a plan. We have to know what we're going to be asking for. Monies will come out of this infrastructure bill and then they're going to go to the different appropriate agencies. Broadband will most likely go to the FCC. Commerce may be helping on some of these dollars, but when we talk about replacing sewage lines or pipes, the pipes that are underneath, or doing something about our roads, we as a region have to have a plan. And dollars are going to be granted based on regional cooperation. And, sometimes we all love to complain, but we are not. You know, this region takes a while sometimes to come together. We have got to be coming together now to ensure we are ready to apply for those federal dollars.

David Fair: If you sit any five people in a room, it's likely that you'll have disagreement on process and policy. And fact of the matter is, when you're trying to talk about connecting local units of government, state levels of government and the federal government, and all of the agencies that work within that infrastructure realm, how do you create a plan that is workable and ready to go?

Debbie Dingell: Well, there are a lot of groups that have the job to be doing the work. The governor's office convened a meeting on Monday and brought many of those groups together. The job now is to take what has been done, the work that's been done to date threaded together. I think we should be working with the Corps of Engineers. We've gotten some language into the Appropriations Committee report that says that the Corps should work with southeastern Michigan because the flooding is so bad. And we need to get a plan so that when this passes, we can file a regional plan.

David Fair: Well, we were going to talk about the passage of some pivotal PFAS legislation in the U.S. House, but we've run out of time for today. So we'll include that in our conversation next week.

Debbie Dingell: Flooding right now matters. We need to make sure people know there's resources there. We're there to help each other and support each other.

David Fair: And you will find access to those resources when you check out our website at WEMU Dot Org. That is Representative Debbie Dingell, 12th District congresswoman. I'm David Fair. And this is 89 one WEMU FM in WEMU HD, one Ypsilanti.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu