PIERRE — President Barack Obama has signed a disaster declaration allowing 14 South Dakota counties and two American Indian reservations to get federal financial help to recover from the early October blizzard that closed roads, downed power lines and killed thousands of livestock, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Friday.
Preliminary estimates showed nearly $38 million in damages to public and private nonprofit property. Costs included debris removal, repair of rural electric cooperative power lines and repair of roads and other infrastructure damaged by storm-related flooding. Other costs include snow removal in six counties with record snowfalls.
The disaster declaration authorizes the federal government to cover up to 75 percent of eligible costs. Counties eligible for assistance are: Butte, Corson, Custer, Dewey, Fall River, Haakon, Harding, Jackson, Lawrence, Meade, Pennington, Perkins, Shannon and Ziebach, as well as the Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge reservations.
The presidential declaration also activates a disaster unemployment program, which provides some funds for self-employed people such as ranchers, who have lost their income because of the disaster, Daugaard said.
Ranchers will get some help from disaster unemployment program, but what they really need is for Congress to pass a new farm bill, Daugaard said. The farm bill could revive a federal livestock disaster program that would cover some of ranchers’ losses for dead livestock.