PINE RIDGE, S.D. – August 7 will mark one year since President Obama’s disaster declaration for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, kicking off the largest housing effort in the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s history. To support this effort, FEMA continues to have staff deployed to the reservation and office space at Ellsworth Air Force Base.
To address the severe housing need on the reservation following the disaster, FEMA initiated a permanent housing construction program used for the first time in the continental United States. Under the effort, more than 300 households were identified as eligible for either repairs to their damaged home, or replacement with a new manufactured home. A total of 196 new manufactured homes were turned over to tribal residents with the final closing occurring on July 11. The manufactured homes were staged at Ellsworth Air Force Base prior to their final delivery and installation on the reservation. As of August 2, 85 additional homes have been repaired by contractors funded by FEMA. The remaining 23 homes are expected to be repaired by early September.
In addition to the housing construction program, FEMA has provided more than $435,000 in direct financial aid to tribal members. Of that, more than $217,000 was for home repairs and $219,000 was for personal property losses and other emergency needs as a result of the May storm. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has approved $943,000 in low-interest loans to 58 tribal residents and businesses.
Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds will also be made available to the tribe, with the amount available based on total disaster response and recovery costs. This program will allow the tribe to develop and undertake projects that will minimize the impact of future disaster events. Projects will be based on priorities established by the tribe, can be done reservation wide, and do not have to be directly related damages caused by the May 2015 storm event.
A federal interagency disaster recovery coordination team has partnered with the (OST) Government to support long-term recovery. Joining FEMA and the tribal government are the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Agriculture Rural Development, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the Federal Highway Administration.
The recovery coordination team has task forces dedicated to two primary issues, roads and housing. On the housing front, the goal is “One Nation – One Number”, and initiative to get a comprehensive count of both housing structures and their condition as well as the number of occupants. An accurate total will give a true picture of the scope of need and bolster requests for funding to address it.
A similar tack is being taken on the roads side, with “One Nation – One Map” being the result of a months-long survey of all roads within reservation boundaries. The survey is being converted into GIS data to provide the tribe with comprehensive information on all roads and their current maintenance.