June 20, 2011
***For Immediate Release***
BAUCUS OFFERS HELP NAVIGATING FLOOD DISASTER CLAIMS PROCESS
Senator Tells Montana Communities: “Don’t Take No for an Answer Until My Office has Reviewed Your Claim”
(Washington, D.C.) – Montana’s senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus reached out to local Montana officials today, letting them know his office is available to help navigate the claims process for federal support now that the Major Presidential Disaster Declaration has been approved for Montana flooding. Baucus wrote letters to local, county and tribal officials, telling them not to accept any denial of federal assistance until his office has reviewed their claims. Baucus pointed to the example of the Huntley Project in Yellowstone County, where his office was able to convince the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reverse its decision not to include the community in preliminary damage assessments.
“I want Montanans to know we are in this together and I’m here to help however I can. I’m urging folks to contact my offices for help. Call us, email us, or just stop by – we work for you,”
Baucus said. “If a federal agency turns down a claim for help, don’t take no for an answer unless we’ve reviewed it. We can’t make any promises, but we will do all we can to work with FEMA and all federal agencies on your behalf. And we’ll go through every claim with a fine-toothed comb to make sure Montanans get every ounce of support they are owed.”
Baucus has also been working to find additional resources for Montana communities beyond FEMA funds, which currently target mostly public infrastructure. Last week, Baucus secured nearly $1 million in additional support for rural and agriculture-related flood recovery from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“If communities have specific needs FEMA can’t fill, let us know and we’ll work with you to find a solution. We’re looking under every rock, to exhaust every resource and get our communities the support they need,” Baucus said.
Production-quality video and audio:
Baucus sent the letter below to local, county and tribal officials across Montana today.
June 20, 2011
Dear [insert local official]
As you know, the White House recently issued a Presidential Disaster Declaration for Montana due to damage caused by devastating flooding across the state. This is a very difficult time for all Montanans. I want you to know that my staff and I are available to you to help in any and every way possible.
In the difficult weeks ahead, there are a number of ways that I aim to help Montana recover. First, my bottom line is this: If you are concerned that a federal agency made an incorrect decision regarding the eligibility of state, county, local, tribal, non-profit, business or individuals for assistance, bring your application and information to me. Our job is to make sure if you're eligible, you receive the assistance. This is important because often in an effort to process requests quickly, federal agencies can reject claims that should - by the regulations - be approved. Everyone makes mistakes. But, by working together, we can make sure mistakes regarding federal assistance are quickly identified and corrected.
For example, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) conducted a preliminary damage assessment of Yellowstone County, they determined that the damage to the Huntley Project Irrigation District would not qualify to be included in the damage assessment. However, my staff determined that the Huntley Project did in fact qualify and I worked with FEMA to have the decision reversed. I hope to continue this productive working relationship with FEMA and other federal agencies to see that all those that are eligible for assistance receive the help they deserve.
Second, I want to make sure you have all the information you need to make good decisions in response to disasters. That means that you will receive quick responses to all inquiries to my office about what assistance is available and how to apply. That also means that I will be working with FEMA and other federal agencies to set up briefings for all those interested in applying for federal assistance. Do not hesitate to contact my DC office using my toll-free number, 800-332-6106, or one of my eight Montana offices if you do not feel that you are receiving all the information you need to make decisions regarding your home or your business.
Thank you for your understanding and attention during this difficult time in Montana. We are all in this together. I look forward to working with you in the challenging weeks and months ahead.
Contact: Kate Downen 406-224-5056/Jenny Donohue (202)224-4515/Kathy Weber 406-657-5915
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