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Clay Jenkins: federal disaster declaration key to getting money for North Texas flood damage

Dallas Flooding
LM Otero
/
AP
Susan Brosin pauses while she talks about how fast water entered and flooded her home in Dallas last week.

Dallas County officials are pushing for a federal disaster declaration so that residents whose homes or businesses were damaged or destroyed can get individual assistance — and the money wouldn't have to be repaid.

But Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said two things are required before an area is deemed a “disaster” by the federal government: a recommendation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and a signature from President Joe Biden.

“He doesn’t do that if only 30 homes are destroyed,” Jenkins said. "They definitely do that if 400 homes are destroyed. And we’re talking about for the state of Texas.”

Clay Jenkins.
Bret Jaspers
/
KERA
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins is hoping for a federal disaster declaration that will help residents get help with damaged or destroyed homes and businesses.

Last week, parts of Dallas County received more than 15 inches of rain in less than a day. A 60-year-old woman died in her car; Jenkins said she was an Uber driver.

In a presentation billed as the “State of the County,” Jenkins said people have submitted 677 damage reports in Dallas County, including 44 businesses. Over 250 of those were structures that were destroyed or sustained major damage.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed his own disaster order last week for 23 counties in the state, saying officials needed to “aggregate the damages across the entire region.”

Residents are encouraged to make a report and upload photos on the state’s iSTAT website as officials prepare a report on the damage. FEMA’s website says any request must come within 30 days of the event.

“A lot of people, for whatever reason, maybe because they don’t have good broadband, because they’re not tech savvy, they’re not doing it,” Jenkins said of the new tool. “So we’re going door to door helping neighborhoods with that.”

According to Jenkins, the homes must be uninsured in order to qualify for federal aid. He said a request for a disaster declaration was denied after 2019 tornados because most of the damaged North Dallas homes had insurance.

Although he said he was confident that flood areas of Texas would be deemed a disaster, if the application is denied, it’s possible the Small Business Administration would issue individual loans to families to help them rebuild.

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at bjaspers@kera.org. You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

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Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.