Dodge County is now two months removed from the historic flooding that devastated Nebraska communities in March, but the recovery effort continues. And now, it’s shifted into a new phase.
Local officials and area nonprofits have started the process of developing a “Long-Term Recovery Group” to continue to help residents in need, even as other recovery resources begin to wind down.
Last weekend, for instance, Fremont City Auditorium, which had been acting as a supply distribution center for those in need, held its final day of distribution. Resource allocation will now be coordinated through the Long-Term Recovery Group, according to Dodge County Emergency Manager Tom Smith.
“The Long-Term Recovery Group is basically a group that is going to help with unmet needs in the community,” Smith told the Tribune.
The group consists of several local governmental entities — including the City of Fremont, Dodge County, Winslow, Inglewood, Hooper and Scribner/Snyder — as well as a swathe of area nonprofits. That includes the Fremont Area United Way, the Fremont Family Coalition, Three Rivers Public Health Department and others.
The group’s primary focus is case management — working with individuals who, perhaps, didn’t get as much assistance from FEMA’s public assistance program as they needed, or who didn’t qualify for assistance, or who may have other lingering, unmet needs.
“Case work is one of the primary goals of this group, to identify those unmet needs and help people transition to a new normal for themselves as they recover,” Smith said.
Individuals will be eligible to seek help through the group if they’ve already sought FEMA public assistance. The deadline to apply for FEMA assistance is May 20.
“We have to make sure they seek the FEMA public assistance,” Smith said. “This isn’t your first stop. This is your last stop. If you went through the FEMA process and they can’t help you, this is where your case will come, to the Long-Term-Recovery Group.”
The Long-Term Recovery Group represents the latest iteration of the county’s response to the floods. As the flooding reached its peak, necessitating rescues and immediate aid, the county and several other regional agencies hunkered down together in the Fremont Police Department, forming an Emergency Operations Center.
The Fremont Area United Way and the Fremont Area Community Foundation, which both collected donations to help with flood response, will represent the financial backbone of this new group, Smith said.
The group is still in its formation stages. Members met last Friday to establish bylaws, identify subcommittees and nominate the board.
There will be subcommittees established to address the following needs: construction, resource allocation, volunteer and donation management, spiritual services, physical and mental health and housing.
Members of the Long-Term Recovery Group will not be informed as to who submits a claim. Individuals who seek assistance will be assigned a case number and their names will be withheld to ensure anonymity and fairness, Smith said.
Through the Long-Term Recovery Group, individuals will also be able to seek out resources that were previously distributed at the city auditorium. That includes other resources that were donated, but that need to be handed out on a case-by-case basis such as mattresses.
There have been some obstacles in establishing the group, Smith told the Tribune.
The group is working with larger national organizations like United Methodists Responding to Disaster and Disaster Philanthropy to establish the infrastructure for case management — such as case workers. But those groups are tied up responding to a number of other natural disasters across the country, such as tornadoes and the continued flooding in Iowa.
“Our local United Way here is thinking outside the box and trying to do different things to get the infrastructure started for case management,” Smith said.