LINCOLN, Neb. — The flooding that devastated huge swaths of Nebraska may put a dent in the state budget and force the postponement of other expenses, but officials said the recovery costs should be manageable.
Lawmakers are bracing for a likely wave of state agency budget requests in the next fiscal year as the state government's share of the disaster recovery costs become clearer.
Members of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee want to ensure the state has enough cash to handle new flood-related expenses as well as future weather disasters, said Sen. John Stinner, the committee's chairman.
"It became a priority, obviously," he said. "Other things that we might have done were left out of the budget."
For instance, Stinner said lawmakers may postpone some funding increases to the state Department of Health and Human Services that aren't immediately needed.
He said the Appropriations Committee is proposing an $11 million boost to the state's disaster response fund over the next two years to replenish money that was used to help local communities hit by flooding.
The account held around $3.9 million when the flooding began, and state officials have since obligated about $3.5 million, leaving an available balance of $400,000. The fund is used for immediate recovery efforts, such as debris removal and rescue operations, but also provides matching funds that are required to receive federal disaster aid.
Lawmakers typically try to maintain a balance of $5 million, but state emergency officials predict the fund could require an additional $3 million to $5 million in the next fiscal year and another $5 million the year after that.
The Nebraska State Patrol expects to see an uptick in overtime and travel expenses as a result of the flood but doesn't yet have an exact estimate, said spokesman Cody Thomas. Troopers worked longer hours to respond to last month's flooding and blizzard, and some were dispatched to other hard-hit parts of the state.
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Thomas said the federal government will likely reimburse some of the expense.
"There was quite a bit of extra manpower on the roads," he said.
The Nebraska Department of Transportation estimated recently that it will face an estimated $100 million in repair and rebuilding costs, although the federal government could cover up to 80 percent of those expenses.
The amount the federal government reimburses is still unclear, however, because state and federal officials are still sorting through all the projects and deadlines, said Jeni Campana, a department spokeswoman. The state's $100 million estimate is substantially lower than the original projection, which pegged the cost at $429 million.
Campana said the department has completed a lot of the work. As of Friday, all but 19 of the 2,000 miles of highway that were closed due to flooding have reopened. The department will pay its share of the repair costs out of the state's highway cash fund, which holds around $600 million.
Campana said the department is working to absorb the cost of flood repairs without disrupting other planned road projects.
"We're still trying to operate with business as usual," she said. "We're feeling pretty confident we're not going to see a huge impact."
Help for Santee Sioux
In the wake of the unprecedented #NebraskaFlood, Indian nations are coming together to help the Santee Sioux Tribe, whose reservation was hit hard. Donations of bottled water and baby supplies are needed, and the tribe's water supply needs repairs too. https://t.co/fVsfPT4lkC— indianz.com (@indianz) March 19, 2019
Flying in supplies
The Nebraska flooding is so heartbreaking but the whole state has stepped up to help. I can’t be more proud of my brother for flying his plane to Fremont with baby supplies to help. Proud to be from Nebraska #NebraskaFlood #NebraskaStrong @GMA pic.twitter.com/vFZVDj6lm6— Michelle Galles (@WakefieldFCCLA) March 19, 2019
Offutt before and after
I joined the Fremont National Guard in Nebraska today to get an aerial view of flooding impact as we traveled to thank volunteers in Fremont, NE, address a community meeting in Niobrara, and receive a briefing in Lynch.#NebraskaFlood | #NebraskaStrong | #FremontStrong pic.twitter.com/piEXa7TpIq— Scott (@FirstMinScott) March 19, 2019
Cleanup in Wood River
Farmers, and rural people in general, have resiliency, and an innate ability to be kicked down (multiple times) and bounce right back up. Because of heart. #Flood19 #flood2019 #agchat #NebraskaStrong#IowaFloodhttps://t.co/4idp5iAQoX pic.twitter.com/Z8Dh01FBWo— NationalHogFarmer (@NHF_Magazine) March 19, 2019
Home appears like an island
This home in western Douglas County near Platte River appears like its own island - alone and desolate. But #unifiedcommand & @DCEMA_Nebraska assure you we are in this together. We are working tirelessly 24/7 to be here for our residents. #flood2019 #NebraskaFlood #NEBRASKASTRONG pic.twitter.com/JUbZdNv6bV— DouglasCountyNE (@DouglasCountyNE) March 19, 2019
U.S. 81 south of Columbus
.@NebraskaDOT teams have been working their tails off for several days (and they're not stopping any time soon).— NEStatePatrol (@NEStatePatrol) March 19, 2019
As roads open, we'll do our best to spread the word.
You should still check 511 before you attempt to travel in eastern Nebraska. https://t.co/D04CdkIVTY pic.twitter.com/ALXoLpifZD
State Patrol warning on roads
Road damage is extensive in many areas. This is a major reason why we tell people to avoid driving through flood waters.— NEStatePatrol (@NEStatePatrol) March 19, 2019
There's no telling what's under the surface, or if the road is even there any more.
Check out @NSP_TrooperGena @NSPTroopBNights for more. pic.twitter.com/byqCtMsnSI
Repairing the roads
Beer fridge was stocked!
For those of you that don't know, our state of #Nebraska is going through record flooding. Sometimes though, the world sends you a break. These guys went to their #DuckCamp and found a fully-stocked #BeerFridge. #NebraskaStrong #Flood2019 pic.twitter.com/t8FvdqVQ3g— Fat Boy Wild Game (@gameseasonings) March 19, 2019
This March, unprecedented flooding has impacted our great state.— Nebraska Huskers (@Huskers) March 19, 2019
Support relief efforts throughout Nebraska by joining @HuskerHoops tomorrow at PBA. Cash donations will be collected prior to tip.
To give $10 now, text "red cross" to 90999.
🔗: https://t.co/TOspLslAZk#GBR pic.twitter.com/CFzveypYH0
$300 of donations
Husker Life Skills
Latest from NEMA
Helping fellow student
Being briefed on AF2 w/ @SenJoniErnst en route to Nebraska on the latest from the devastating flooding that has impacted Nebraska, Iowa, & much of the Midwest. Our hearts are w/ the victims & we are grateful to First Responders & volunteers. Be there soon. pic.twitter.com/TIIjOPTYDE— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) March 19, 2019
Lincoln help for Santee Sioux
North Bend ovation
Sandbagging at Cooper
Niobrara ice chunks
Help from Fairbury
Help for farmers
Thanks to generious donations to the Disaster Relief Fund, we were able to deliver supplies to farmers along the Niobrara River. We brought them milk replacement for calves and medicine. Help us do more good by donating to the fund: https://t.co/sFi40cxnwG #nebraskastrong pic.twitter.com/dAGUYDKFpo— Nebraska Farm Bureau (@NEFarmBureau) March 20, 2019
Help from North Platte
@GitRDoneLarry— Chandra Laine (@ChandraLaine) March 20, 2019
We are a group of volunteers gathering donations in North Platte Ne . We sent one semi to Fremont. We have two more semi trailers almost full.Get our 4th semi on Thursday. To the people, Your battle is our battle. We stand with you. We got you! ❤ #NebraskaStrong pic.twitter.com/wsDRTr0Tr9
Ricketts disaster aid request
This afternoon @GovRicketts spoke directly to the agency representatives working in the SEOC in Lincoln when he came to sign an expedited request for federal disaster assistance for the #NebraskaFlood. Read more: https://t.co/6AAOmimbqR #NebraskaStrong pic.twitter.com/MffhKGpgBx— NEMA (@NEMAtweets) March 20, 2019
Buying out the bleach
Pence in Nebraska
Visited the relief shelter at Elkhorn Middle School today to let the Nebraska flood victims know @POTUS and I are WITH them & to thank the incredible military personnel & @RedCross volunteers helping those impacted. THANK YOU! pic.twitter.com/ZA6X7qfeSi— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) March 20, 2019
I-680 Mormon bridge
Pence with rescuers
Americans like Brad Brown & his airboat co-pilot Jake Rohr are the heart of the heartland. Brad & Jake have been helping victims of the flooding & delivering much needed supplies. Grateful for their service & ALL the volunteers & emergency personnel helping Nebraskans in need! pic.twitter.com/l2PxhwX6a4— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) March 20, 2019
Edge of Offutt
Sasse surveying damage
View of the Platte/Missouri
Lutheran Family Services
Thank you to all who have donated so far to support flood victims. As roads are reopening into Fremont, we are sending out LFS interpreters, case workers and therapists to help out in the shelters.— LFS of Nebraska (@LFSNEB) March 20, 2019
There is a long road ahead, but we will be here the whole way. #NebraskaStrong pic.twitter.com/vE1W2hEbys
Latest from FEMA
Missouri River at Nebraska 2/I-29
Operation Hay Drop
Operation Prairie Hay Drop photos
The #NEGuard has been supporting the ongoing response in Eastern Nebraska following massive flooding on the state’s river systems which began a week ago and caused catastrophic damage to the state’s infrastructure and agriculture.— NE National Guard (@NENationalGuard) March 21, 2019
(3/3)#NebraskaFlood #NebraskaStrong pic.twitter.com/N4zQ2zu2Zx