Governor Approves State Public Assistance Payments for Damages from 2019 Floods

Gov. Pete Ricketts has approved payment of a state share of public assistance projects under DR 4420, the flooding disaster of 2019. This will include assistance for power, irrigation and natural resource districts. While the state normally pays a share of the public assistance cost for other subrecipients, it does not usually pay a share of the non-federal portion of public assistance costs for these districts.

The extent of damage that occurred during DR-4420 (severe winter storm, straight-line winds and flooding from March 9 to July 15, 2019) led Gov. Ricketts to approve the addition of the state share for these districts. His decision follows President Joseph R. Biden’s approval to increase the federal cost share from 75% to 90%. Under the president’s recent order, the federal share for public assistance payments will increase an estimated $65 million.

““The State of Nebraska has stepped up to pay a percentage of the public assistance costs for power, irrigation, and natural resource districts affected by the historic floods of 2019.”  Gov. Ricketts said. “The extraordinary damage these entities suffered is one of the reasons the federal government approved increasing its cost share from 75% to 90%.  Given the extent of flood damage to infrastructure, extra state and federal assistance will help to meet more critical needs in our communities.”.”

While this is a bit of a departure from normal, Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Assistant Director Bryan Tuma, said it is within the latitude of the Governor’s Emergency Fund that we can pay this cost share.

“The increase of the federal share was triggered by a regulation that authorizes additional federal assistance when a jurisdiction is severely impacted above and beyond normal recovery costs,” Tuma said. “The 2019 flood had devasting impact on the state. These changes will significantly defray the cost of the disaster for the state, local governments and public power, irrigation and natural resource districts."

Public assistance costs will likely grow beyond $500 million over time, Tuma said.

“The additional federal assistance benefits will be a significant benefit to the state,” Tuma said.

In Nebraska, subrecipients and the state generally pay 12.5% each of the public assistance costs and for DR 4420 it will be reduced to 5% for the subrecipient and 5% for the state.

The legislature’s appropriation of $54 million to assist with disaster recovery will assist in paying the state’s share of public assistance. The governor has latitude to determine how much the state share will be and how much the subrecipient will pay of the non-federal share.