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What the federal disaster aid package means for Missouri as devastating flooding continues


As catastrophic flooding continues across Missouri, President Donald Trump signed a much-anticipated $19.1 billion disaster aid bill Thursday — meaning relief for the storm-ravaged Show-Me State will soon be on the way.

Flooding has desecrated the Midwest — particularly Missouri — since March, displacing homes and causing cataclysmic damage to farms situated near the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Storms and tornadoes, too, have ripped through Missouri in recent months, leaving behind even more destruction.

State Rep. Louis Riggs, whose district in the northeast part of the state borders the Mississippi River, said farmers, in particular, have “really taken it on the chin” from bad prices over the past few years to last year’s drought to the seemingly endless flooding now.

Exceedingly saturated levees in his district are being watched around the clock, he said, and “one overly ambitious groundhog could spell disaster with the amount of water looking for any type of opening.”

“We desperately need federal assistance to reimburse those who have been working tirelessly since March to battle the Mississippi River. We have levee districts expending as much as $100,000 per day, and our communities are expending similar sums to fight the flooding,” Riggs told The Missouri Times. “We also know that recovery costs will be substantial when we finally make it to the recovery phase.”

According to a May Grain Crop Report from the Missouri Department of Agriculture, only 69 percent of corn has been planted; this time last year, 100 percent had been completed. And of what’s been planted, less than 60 percent of corn has emerged, and 63 percent of the emerged corn is considered to be in fair to good condition.

As for soybeans, only 18 percent has been planted, compared to 84 percent that had been planted by this time last year, according to the report.

After a bit of a logjam, Congress finally sent a $19.1 billion disaster relief package to Trump earlier this week. The bill includes a measure from U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, of Missouri, that expands aid eligibility to stored commodities lost and crops unable to be planted.

Other provisions included in the bill are:

  • $4.5 billion earmarked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for repairs to farmlands, infrastructure, and rural community facilities as well as assistance stemming from crop losses in flood-impacted states such as Missouri
  • $3 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to repair waterway infrastructure — including a designated $1 billion to repair local levees breached or damaged
  • $2.4 billion assigned for grants to cities, counties, and states for long-term recovery efforts, including infrastructure restoration and economic revitalization through the Community Development Block Grant program
  • $1.6 billion for the Department of Transportation’s highway emergency relief efforts to repair roads and bridges

Blunt praised the relief package as an “important start” but noted additional assistance may be needed in the future as “the full scope of the damage becomes clear.” He also called for possible changes to how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages the Missouri River “to help prevent catastrophic flooding in the future.”

And U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, of Missouri, also praised the bill as “an important step forward that expedites the assistance that Missourians need.”

“I’ve seen the devastation firsthand and talked with families who have lost everything. Passing this aid package is just one step of many toward getting folks in our state back on their feet, and we’re grateful to have it,” Hawley said in a statement. “The path toward recovery continues.”

Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, thanked Missouri’s congressional representation for their part in finally getting the bill through.

“The waters continue to rise, and we expect that more damage is to come. This crucial funding will help farmers, ranchers, and rural communities recover from events that are truly out of their control,” Hurst said.

Additionally, the USDA is providing financial and technical help with flood-related repairs in 13 counties in Missouri, according to Missouri’s Department of Agriculture.