‘Disaster’ declaration flawed

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 9, 2010

Words like “major damage,” and “disaster declaration,” don’t mean a thing to people like Bob Dalton of the Ironton area.

Dalton is one of more than a dozen Lawrence Countians who basically lost the one thing he had worked all his life for following last week’s floods.

Dalton didn’t lose his car. And he didn’t lose his TV. And most of his personal belongings are OK, too.

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But this isn’t a happy ending.

Dalton basically had to say goodbye to his house on State Route 93 after flooding destroyed the structural integrity of his foundation and basement.

But stories like Dalton’s and others just aren’t good enough for the state and federal government.

To obtain a disaster declaration and financial aid that comes with it, local officials must identify 25 homes and businesses that have sustained at least 40 percent damage or fall into the categories of “major damage” or “destroyed.”

As of late last week 65 homes affected by flooding had been reported the EMA office.

Of those houses, only 14 were considered by state and federal standards to have major damage. Only seven could be considered destroyed.

But that doesn’t help Dalton and those like him.

Two things must happen so that assistance following natural disasters, many of which could never be predicted, can be handled as quickly and fairly as possible.

First, every citizen whose home was damaged should report it to county officials so these statistics can be counted and an accurate measure taken.

Second, the state and federal government must reevaluate how it determines who gets assistance. The threshold for aid is simply too high and does nothing for many families impacted.

Regardless of the words we use, it is clear that many southern Ohioans need help and we cannot turn our back on them.