The U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security promised a "full-court press" in bringing flood recovery to the Minot area following a helicopter tour of the Souris River basin Wednesday.
Secretary Janet Napolitano said her agency would be bringing in a full force of people to assist with the recovery. The Department of Homeland Security includes the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has had workers on the ground in Minot since the end of June.
"We want to make sure that we are giving the full-court press here," she said. "We are all standing behind the people of Minot, behind the people of the surrounding area, the people of North Dakota. Where I sit in Washington, D.C., we will make sure that everything that can be done is being done and is being done as promptly, as quickly, as possible."
Jill Schramm/MDN • Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano promotes a list of FEMA contacts at a Wednesday news conference outside city hall for Minot-area residents who have experienced flooding. The news conference was held over the rumble of a Burlington Northern train passing over the Sixth Street underpass.
President Obama has visited with her about making sure that federal help arrives quickly, she said.
Napolitano urged people to register with FEMA and visit the Disaster Recovery Centers set up to assist residents. FEMA is assisting with temporary housing and other needs of people displaced from their homes as well as providing some payment for uninsured property loss.
As of Wednesday, FEMA had 7,900 registrations and paid out $13.3 million.
"But we are prepared to do more as the requests come in," Napolitano said.
Napolitano acknowledged that FEMA's individual assistance cap of $30,200 won't address all the needs. The cap is the law, though, she said.
"In the end, we may not be able to provide everybody the kind of help they are going to need. I have to be honest with you. The federal government is not a panacea for everything. What we can do is provide assistance up to the cap. The Small Business Administration can provide low-interest loans. We can look for other sources for people, but individuals may not be able to get 100 percent of what they had before," she said.
Napolitano said now is the time for people to consider flood insurance.
"It's too late for the floods that have occurred but it's not too late for floods that may be in the future," she said.
Napolitano said Minot will need to plan for the future, looking at where to build homes and schools and whether there should be a buffer area around the river.
"These are decisions that should be made by the people here," she said. "If you have to have federal help for that, we will find it."
Napolitano said current budget discussions in Congress won't affect the amount of assistance available to the Minot area. She indicated the department has the funding to respond.
"I would just caution patience. With these kinds of big disasters, it's not a one-week recovery. It's not even a several-months recovery. You are looking at a long time," she said. "The major message is that we at FEMA and at the Department of Homeland Security are here for the duration."
Gov. Jack Dalrymple said Napolitano understands that flooding has affected not just Minot but much of the state.
"We have over $400 million of damage to public infrastructure alone, and probably in total, counting residential and business damages, over $1 billion," he said. The damages technically qualify the state for FEMA's maximum match, covering 90 percent of the cost, he said.