FEMA officials explain federal aid coming to Pine Ridge Reservation

Millions of dollars of aid will be used for public infrastructure, private property assistance

PINE RIDGE S.D. — Millions of dollars from the federal government is making its way to the Pine Ridge Reservation to assist with recovery from the blizzards and subsequent flooding.

This past winter, the Pine Ridge Reservation was slammed with back to back winter storms. Community members faced mud, flooding, water main breaks and crumbling infrastructure. Months later, communities across the reservation are still feeling the effects.

Now, FEMA is stepping in and providing aid for both community members and the tribe. They’re providing two types of relief: public and individual assistance. Individual aid assists people with home repairs and property damage, while public assistance helps fix roads, bridges and water systems. The flooding made many roads across the reservation impassable, and washed out roads and culverts.

“We’ll be going and making sure that funds are dispersed to the tribe to help their infrastructure be repaired from this walloping from the storms earlier this year,” said Daniel Green, the FEMA external affairs officer for region 8.

The Pine Ridge Reservation is receiving public assistance separately from the state. Chase Iron Eyes, public relations director for OST President Bear Runner, explained that the decision to apply for aid alone was important.

“Seeking this declaration is an expression of the inherent sovereign status of the Oglala Sioux Tribe,” Iron Eyes said. “And now we have crucial experience in navigating the logistics of the aid process.”

This isn’t the first time FEMA has come to Pine Ridge. In 2015, the Oglala Sioux Tribe was the first tribe in the nation to receive individual aid.

“Several people who are working in South Dakota in these disasters were here in 2015, and we’re honored to be working with out partners from the Oglala Sioux Tribe once again,” said Green.

So far, FEMA has processed more than 300 registrations by homeowners for individual assistance. The tribe expects that number to grow to 1,500.

FEMA officials also say August 7 is the deadline to register for individual assistance.

According to a press release from the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, homeowners, renters and businesses should register for disaster assistance before visiting a recovery center. There are several ways to register:

• Go online to DisasterAssistance.gov or DisasterAssistance.gov/es (for Spanish).
• Use the FEMA mobile app in English or Spanish.
• Call the disaster assistance helpline at 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585 (TTY) anytime from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. local time seven days a week until further notice. Multilingual operators are available.

People can also apply for individual by visiting the Billy Mills Building at 85 E. Main St. Pine Ridge, S.D. Hours of operation are Monday thru Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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