Disaster proclamation could provide assistance to flood-damaged homes, businesses

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ARENAC COUNTY — A declaration of disaster proclaimed by Gov. Rick Snyder has opened up grant opportunities for local units of government, but emergency management Coordinator Ed Rohn said it might also lead to aid for residents and business owners affected by flooding.

Rohn said the March 12 declaration by Snyder opened up a special state fund to help with additional expenses due to flooding.

“What the governor did is declare a disaster in the state of Michigan for 17 counties and two cities,” he said. “That opened up an emergency contingency fund for governmental units with expenses beyond their normal operating budget.”

“The governor’s declaration only affects governmental units — the responders and such — if there was an excess of cost in responding and recovering from the storm,” Rohn said.

However, that doesn’t mean homes that were destroyed or that suffered major damage will be left out to dry. Rohn said March 13 the governor also requested damage review from the Small Business Administration. That review, according to Rohn, is what could open up funding opportunities to homeowners and businesses.

“The request from the SBA will likely result in damage assessment being done once again to determine if there is enough damage,” he said.

Michigan State Police disaster zone Public Information Officer Dale George said SBA loans would only be good for damage not covered by insurance. He said the SBA assessments would look for a certain number of homes or businesses in need before making assistance available.

“They’ll be looking for at least 25 businesses or homes with a 40 percent or more uninsured estimated loss of their fair market value,” he said. “Once they determine whether there is that much, then they will determine if that county qualifies for SBA assistance.”

The flooding, caused by snowmelt, rain and ice jams, resulted in e of 21 homes destroyed or with major damage, seven with minor damage and eight others affected in some way, per a damage assessment by Rohn and the homeland security division of the state police. Multiple canoe liveries and campgrounds also suffered damage to electrical infrastructure, buildings and equipment. The SBA survey is a different assessment, George said.

“(The SBA will) go in and meet with homeowners to determine if they meet the threshold for SBA assistance,” he said.

“They won’t have to go to every home,” George said. “They just have to determine if there’s a certain number of homes that sustained damage in that area.”

Information posted to the SBA website Aug. 31, 2017, following Hurricane Harvey states the SBA offers three types of loans — business physical disaster loans, economic injury disaster loans and home disaster loans.

Business physical disaster loans have a limit of $2 million and can be used to repair or replace real estate, inventories, machinery, equipment and other physical losses. Economic injury loans also have a $2 million limit, but alleviate intangible economic injury caused by a disaster — for instance the financial burden caused by an inability to travel to a location due to a road being washed out or bridge destroyed.

Home disaster loans, per the SBA website, are for primary residences. The limit is $200,000 for repair or replacement costs not covered by insurance. Homeowners may also qualify for up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property, the SBA website states.

While businesses and homeowners have to wait a bit longer before seeking funding to help with repairs, the governor’s proclamation does offer the potential for aid to local units of government in Allegan, Arenac, Barry, Berrien, Cass, Clare, Eaton, Ingham, Ionia, Kalamazoo, Kent, Mecosta, Newaygo, Ogemaw, Oscoda, Ottawa and St. Joseph counties, and to the cities of Grand Rapids and Lansing.

Rohn said locally, the Arenac County Road Commission would likely be the agency with the most interest in the state emergency grants.

“I think the majority of our cost in the county would be road repairs,” he said. “There may be county-owned property or local governmental property that may have been affected.”

Road commission Superintendent Blair Dyer said overall, the road commission was fortunate that there were not too many seriously damaged roads.

“The road commission was actually pretty lucky,” he said. “The ground was still frozen at the time, which protected it from erosion.”

However, areas of Bessinger Road and Twining Road near the Au Gres River did get hit rather hard, Dyer said.

“Water going over the road actually washed the stone away and exposed what we call a geotextile mat,” he said.

“We put the stone back down over top of them,” Dyer said. “We didn’t want people driving on the mat.”

Pinnacle Drive in Deep River Township, on which nearly every home on the 4000 block suffered flood damage from the Rifle River, actually held up due to the ground being frozen, Dyer said. Johnson Drive in Arenac Township, where many homes were damaged by Rifle River flooding, is a private road and not maintained by the road commission, Dyer said.

The flooding of the Rifle and Au Gres rivers occurred Feb. 21-23.

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