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Federal aid for Texas county governments after severe storms – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Due to severe weather and flooding that began on April 26, 15 counties were placed on the state's long list of those in need of assistance.

Bosque, Cooke, Fannin, Hamilton Henderson, Kaufman, Rockwall and Van Zandt counties are included in the latest round of federal disaster aid.

The announcement was made Tuesday morning by the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM).

“At the direction of Governor Abbott, TDEM has asked FEMA to include these and other counties in the federal disaster declaration to ensure that communities impacted by severe weather receive the financial support they need to rebuild and recover,” said Nim Kidd, Texas Emergency Management Director. “I thank FEMA for working with Texas emergency management officials to provide our state with all the resources and support it needs following the severe weather our communities endured this spring. The Texas Division of Emergency Management will continue to work with local emergency management officials to ensure our communities and Central Texans receive the support they need during the long-term rebuilding process.”

While homeowners were offered assistance from FEMA shortly after the storms, the latest round of federal aid focuses on repairing and rebuilding public roads, bridges and parks.

County leaders in North Texas said damage costs quickly ran into at least hundreds of thousands of dollars. Without the federal assistance, repairs would likely have taken years, according to Steve Howie, Kaufman County's emergency management coordinator.

“It was a huge task,” Howie said. “Our threshold is $668,426 and we had to exceed that before they could issue the welfare statement.”

The damage estimates were determined by members of the country's military and are well above the threshold.

“The numbers we're giving are close to $3 million,” Howie said. “The Texas State Guard was deployed here for a week through TDEM. They brought 94 people here to help us without having to do damage and debris assessments. Those are some unsung heroes of our state.”

For Kaufman County, the main priority is to collect debris in communities like College Mound, which is about five miles southeast of Terrell.

“A lot of it has been pushed to the side of the road. It needs to be cut up and cleaned up,” Howie said.”

One of the largest projects in the country is the reconstruction of Valley View Road north of Forney.

“The actual road surface, which is asphalt, was saturated with water,” Howie said. “The road literally became muddy. And it's been closed ever since because it kind of gets muddy when you cross it. Commissioner Skeet Phillips was afraid that if a car was on it, it would collapse.”

The road has been closed to traffic since Tuesday afternoon. Howie said that could cost the county well over $750,000.

However, FEMA will help cover most of the costs for Kaufman and other counties.

“It's a huge relief because now FEMA will be providing funds,” Howie said. “It's a 75-25 split. Now we can afford to dispose of the debris, pick it up and remove it.”

The counties' recent approval of the Public Assistance Program brings the number of entities eligible to apply for various forms of federal disaster assistance to 63 counties, according to TDEM.

However, the list could be expanded as 26 counties are still pending FEMA review.