At least 1,400 Muskegon County homes affected by flooding

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At least 1,400 Muskegon County residents have reported damage to their homes in the aftermath of historic rainfall last week that left many parts of Michigan flooded.

As a result of the significant flood damage in the area, county homeowners may be eligible for federal assistance. The financial relief would likely be in the form of low-interest loans rather than grants that don't have to be paid back, according to the county's emergency management director.

Local government officials are encouraging residents to report damage due to the heavy rainfall and flooding. Countywide administrators from township, city and county levels met virtually on May 22 to assess the damages of the rainfall and discuss potential funding relief options in Muskegon County.

Muskegon County Director of Emergency Management Richard Warner said it is vital for residents to self-report structure damages through a statewide survey, currently available on the Muskegon County website and Facebook page. The more homeowners that report damage, the more the county has a chance to be eligible for funds.

The survey must be completed by 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 26, he said.

Although over 1,400 residents have emailed the Muskegon County Department of Emergency Management to report structure damage, that information must be re-submitted by residents through the statewide survey, Warner said.

As of 11 a.m. on May 22, only 497 damage reports have been submitted through the statewide survey, which will be used to assess funding options.

Warner said the county has the best chance to be eligible for emergency relief funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

If Muskegon County qualifies for the funds, they would be distributed through low-interest disaster loans that homeowners, renters and businesses could apply for.

"This is not free money," Warner told countywide administrators. "It will come in a low interest loan. You do have to pay it back."

Warner said he dos not believe Muskegon County will be eligible for FEMA disaster relief funding.

"We would need to be more like Midland right now, with houses underwater, to qualify for FEMA," Warner said. "We think it's going to be SBA, if we get enough houses."

Reported structures will be divided into two categories of damages. The minor damages category includes structures with less than 18 inches of water in an essential living space, where damage "does not affect structural integrity" such as damage to drywall, insulation or foundation.

The major damages category includes structures with a water line 18 inches above the floor in an essential living space. Basements are not typically included in this assessment, although Warner said finished basements will be considered essential living spaces.

Major damages involve substantial failures of structural elements to walls, foundations and roofs, including crumbling, collapsing and horizontal cracks of more than two inches, according to the field damage assessment guide shared by Warner.

Counties must meet a threshold of at least 25 structures in the major damages category to be eligible for SBA funding.

Warner told MLive Friday morning he did not have information available as to how many structures currently meet that threshold in Muskegon County.

The emergency director said he's currently waiting to hear back from state officials for further guidance on how to dissect the information submitted to the survey and divide the reported structures into the two categories.

If Muskegon County qualifies for the disaster assistance funding, all adjacent counties that border Muskegon will also be eligible, Warner said. That means residents in Kent, Ottawa, Oceana and Newaygo counties could also apply for the funds.

Ottawa County Emergency Manager Nick Bonstell told MLive that out of 368 structure damage reports submitted through the statewide survey, only three structures in Ottawa County fall under the major damages category and 15 fall under minor damages.

Muskegon County received an historically high 3.8 inches of rainfall from Sunday to Tuesday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

Residents are now facing the catastrophic aftermath of major flooding, the likes of which many Muskegon homeowners said they have never seen before.

Tribune Content Agency
Natural disasters Michigan FEMA SBA Distressed Flood insurance