Photo credit: Boston.com
Residents of Minnesota, North Dakota, and parts of Canada have been scrambling over the last few weeks to stem the tide of the icy and unforgiving Red River. Ice jams have been backing up the river, compounding already rising water levels. In truly amazing acts of teamwork and organization, area communities have become sandbag factories in an attempt to save their homes, businesses, and livelihood. As the region braces for yet another Red River crest this week, the future of residents’ homes is already in question.
While many homes have been saved, no community can completely avoid damages when flooding and an icy northern winter join forces. Still, even those homes successfully saved by sandbagging will face significant cleanup challenges due to layers of dust formed in the process. Even as a second crest approaches in the coming weeks, city and state leaders are scrambling to find answers to housing issues in the impending aftermath.
The first line of financial defense for flood-affected communities will be the federal government, and more specifically, the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and the President himself. The possibility of aid to individual homeowners for home repair is very real, but it requires a declaration of disaster from President Obama, a prospect that has brought FEMA investigators into the area currently to assess the damages.
The future of local homes depends largely on this help. FEMA will pay cities up to 75 percent of the cost for repairs to roads, municipal buildings, schools, and the like, but without federal aid the cost of individual home repair will likely have to come from the homeowners themselves. With a struggling economy and the existing cost to homeowners for prevention, that leaves the very real possibility that many homes will not be repaired, at least initially.
In addition to potential federal funds, the Red Cross offers local homeowners free cleanup kits to help them get their homes back into working order. One possible bright side for affected Minnesotans is a state public works bill that will provide (borrow) money to repair and upgrade preventive infrastructure such as permanent levees. The bill is also expected to create thousands of jobs in the region.