Disaster declared: Obama signs declaration, releasing funds for Hays

By Moses Leos III

A disaster declaration signed by President Barack Obama on Nov. 25 allows residents affected by the Oct. 30 flood event to apply for federal disaster assistance.

According to a press release from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the disaster declaration signed by President Obama extends to 15 Texas counties, which includes Hays County.

President Obama’s disaster declaration came roughly a month after floodwaters caused havoc across all corners of Hays County.

The storm event, which dumped anywhere from 6 to 16 inches of rain, caused extensive flooding affecting homeowners in Kyle, Buda, Wimberley, San Marcos and Dripping Springs.

That event pushed Buda Mayor Todd Ruge and Kyle Mayor Todd Webster to sign local disaster declarations on Oct. 31. Hays County followed suit when Judge Bert Cobb signed a county disaster declaration, which requested state and federal relief.

According to a Hays County press release, Hays County’s request included a preliminary estimate of 83 destroyed homes, with 196 sustaining “major damage” across several cities and unincorporated areas of the county.

Federal assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. The application period is expected to last at least 60 days.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

According to FEMA, Kevin L. Hannes has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.

Hannes said in a statement that additional designations might be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.

Hays County Emergency Management Coordinator Kharley Smith said in a press release that each individual’s losses and needs is different and different types of aid will apply to each person, family and business affected.

Kyle Mayor Todd Webster was pleased with the declaration. He said the process toward declaring available funding, both at the state and federal level “happened quicker than I expected it to.”

While the city doesn’t have an exact dollar amount for estimated damage at this time, Webster estimated up to 100 homes in the city suffered damage.

Webster, who lives in the Steeplechase subdivision, said many homeowners continue to clean up from the event.

“The role we play is getting debris and garbage out as much as possible. The visible signs of damage aren’t there like they were in the aftermath,” he said. Webster added many residents are working to install new drywall in their homes.

As funds will go toward helping residents, the city continues to seek assistance to replace damaged infrastructure.

Buda, which also saw extensive damage, is equally waiting to see if federal assistance will extend to municipalities.

“We have some infrastructure that needs to be fixed,” Buda Mayor Todd Ruge said. “We’re still working to get those included as part of the declaration.” 

But Ruge was pleased with the signing of the presidential disaster declaration. He said it would be a step to assist Hays County citizens recover.  

While he was somewhat surprised by the speed of the president’s declaration, Ruge said the coordinated effort by state officials, including U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett, was key.

“It’s been a long few weeks where we’ve been waiting for this and hoping it would happen,” Ruge said. “I’m glad that it did happen.”

Doggett also commented on the president’s quick response.

“Though recovery has been painful for many of our neighbors, this promptly approved federal Individual Assistance means up to $33,000 for each eligible household and business with unreimbursed flood losses, cleanup, and repair,” Doggett wrote in an email response. “This relief includes those in Hays and Caldwell, who received assistance a few months ago, but incurred additional recent flood damage. I salute those who have worked diligently to complete the assessments required by federal law.”

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