FEMA caps relief money paid to disaster victims, but Arkansas River flood victims may have more money coming their way.
Twelve Arkansas counties impacted by the flood in May and early June, including Crawford and Sebastian, received an $8.94 million recovery grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Federal and county officials say these funds will provide financial assistance to residents in the counties with home damage that has exceeded the FEMA assistance cap of $34,900.
The Arkansas River on June 1 crested at 40.79 feet — nearly 20 feet above normal levels — at the Van Buren gauge after pulsing through the region at swollen levels for about 10 days. The river affected around 545 homes in Sebastian County and Fort Smith and 25 homes in Crawford County and its municipalities, according to city and county officials. Many were forced to evacuate their homes before they were submerged by the river, only to return to muck, mold and debris.
Crawford, Sebastian, Conway, Desha, Faulkner, Jefferson, Lincoln, Logan, Perry, Pope, Pulaski and Yell counties will each receive funding from the grant.
“There was a window of time where families could apply for disaster relief funding. I believe this is what this money will go toward,” said an aid for U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-AR District 4.
Crawford County Emergency Management Director Brad Thomas said he was told this week about the grant. Thomas said he didn’t know how much money his county would receive from the grant but sees the county putting the money to good use.
“Unfortunately, most of the people down there walked away from their homes. There are some families down there who could possibly need some assistance, and we’re working on that. I have somebody contacting them, but I have not heard back from them yet,” Thomas said, highlighting two homes in Dyer and one in the western part of the county that specifically need assistance.
Officials from Westerman’s office added that the congressman, who is on the Water Resources and Environment subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is “constantly” working on legislation to improve waterways. They also said Westerman has met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to see how they can improve infrastructure to prevent flood events like the one in May and June.
In the meantime, Westerman is grateful for the relief funds.
“This grant is a huge step toward getting Arkansan families and business owners back on their feet,” Westerman said in a news release. “I’m grateful to President Trump and HUD Secretary Carson for approving this funding for our state.”