PART OF MPR'S GREAT FLOOD OF 1997 COVERAGE.
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As homeowners return to flooded homes, they face some complex financial decisions on repairing the damage. It's likely that even those with flood insurance will find that not all their losses are covered. Some will fix their homes, others may decide it's not worth the money. Mark Steil of Mainstreet Radio reports:
A CREW OF TEN SALVATION ARMY VOLUNTEERS removes flood-ruined carpets, paneling and drywall from a Montevideo home. The volunteers use crowbars, screwdrivers, and muscle:
(SOUND OF CARPET RIPPING) GOD, I DON'T DO JAZZERCISE FOR NOTHING!
The flood waters filled the basement and stood about two feet deep on the first floor of the house owned by Nancy Robarge and her husband. Nancy helps the workers carry the debris outside. The workers walk from the porch to the sidewalk down two wood planks; the flood waters carried off the front steps, which were made of cement. Nancy Robarge is grateful for the volunteers, but nervous about the future:
WE HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE FLOOD INSURANCE GUY TO COME OUT AND LOOK IN THE BASEMENT AND HOPEFULLY ALL THIS WORK HERE HASN'T GONE IN VAIN. 'CAUSE I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE DAMAGE IS DOWN THERE, WHAT THEY'LL COVER.
Robarge speaks through a thick dust mask. She suffers from allergies and wears the mask to protect herself from mold particles and other unknowns left by the flood water:
I'M HOPING BETWEEN THE FLOOD INSURANCE AND FEMA OR WHATEVER PLACES ARE AVAILABLE FOR HELP I JUST HOPE. . . WE GET HELP. IT'S HARD ENOUGH FOR SOMETHING LIKE THIS TO HAPPEN; AND THEN TO WORRY ABOUT FINANCIAL SITUATIONS AND STUFF. (SIGHS).
Those kinds of concerns will be duplicated in thousands of flood-damaged homes in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota as the region rebuilds. The first step for most homeowners is to contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA's Gene Romano says everyone with flood damage should register with the agency:
FEDERAL PROGRAMS APPLY TO UNINSURED AND UNDER-INSURED LOSSES THAT PEOPLE MAY HAVE. WE WOULD ENCOURAGE PEOPLE NOT TO PREJUDGE THEMSELVES. TO GO AHEAD AND CALL AND APPLY AND LET US WORK WITH THEM TO DETERMINE IF THEY ARE ELGIBLE FOR ANY OF THE STATE OR FEDERAL PROGRAMS.
The toughest decision homeowners face is whether to fix their house. If a home suffered major damage and is in a 100-year flood plain, the owner may face stringent rebuilding requirements. Cities participating in the federal flood insurance program are required to adopt ordinances designed to limit flood damage. FEMA's Romano says typically a flood plain house with major damage cannot be rebuilt unless the owner takes steps to limit future damage, such as raising the house by building a higher foundation:
WE KNOW THAT THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE GONE THROUGH THE FLOODING HERE IN MINNESOTA - IT IS A TERRIBLY DIFFICULT AND VERY EMOTIONAL POINT FOR THEM. AND WE WANT TO TRY AND HELP THEM NOT HAVE TO GO THROUGH THIS AGAIN. AS WELL AS BE PRUDENT AND TAKE A LOOK AT IT FROM A TAXPAYER'S STANDPOINT, THAT THE DAMAGES THAT ARE BEING COVERED ARE NOT CONSTANTLY REPETITIVE.
Many homeowners will face a cash crunch. Some have been out of work for several weeks, and have spent large amounts of money fighting the flood, things likes pumps, lumber and motel rooms. There are government grants available for individuals to help cover some of the expenses. Ahead are larger bills, such as mortgage payments. Minnesota Housing Finance Agency commissioner Kit Hadley hopes banks and other lenders give flooded homeowners extra time to make their house payments:
THE MORTGAGES OF PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN THE RED RIVER AND THE MINNESOTA RIVER VALLEYS ARE HELD BY LENDERS ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY. IS THERE SOME WAY WE CAN TRY TO COORDINATE INFORMATION TO THOSE LENDERS? TRY TO WORK ON SOME STRATEGIES SO THAT HOMEOWNERS DO NOT HAVE TO ADD THIS TO THE LIST OF THINGS THAT THEY HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT IN THE NEAR TERM?
Huge demand is expected for federal government help in flood areas. In East Grand Forks it's estimated only 14% of more than 3000 damaged homes were covered by flood insurance. Already about 45 million federal dollars in flood relief have been approved for Minnesota, paying for things such as emergency housing, crisis counseling, and debris removal. It will go much higher, probably reaching several hundred million dollars. The final figure is crucial because it determines how much will be allocated for long-range flood-fighting efforts. When the last nail is hammered, and the final floor repaired, the federal bill is added up. 15% of that total is then allocated for flood mitigation. The most visible item that money will be spent on is likely to be buyouts. It's expected hundreds of flood-prone homes will be purchased with the money. They'll either be moved or demolished.
FEMA PHONE NUMBER: 1-800-462-9029