Federal money to pay for Montana reservation repairs

Great Falls, Montana (AP) August 2010

The federal government has announced that costs to repair damage from severe storms and flooding in June at Rocky Boy’s Reservation will be covered 100 percent with federal money.

The White House said that the severity and magnitude of the damage warrants the decision.

President Barack Obama on July 10 declared the reservation and Hill County in north-central Montana a disaster area, making federal money available.

That money is usually available under a cost-sharing agreement where only 75 percent is paid by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We were trying to figure out how to come up with 25 percent because we didn’t have it,” said State Rep. Tony Belcourt, a Democrat who lives on the reservation.

The White House said the decision to fully pay for reservation repairs does not apply to areas that are not part of the reservation in Hill County, where cost-sharing remains in place.

Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus, and Gov. Brian Schweitzer, all Democrats, requested the declaration be changed to include full funding.

“These folks have been through a nightmare, and we’ve got to keep working together with partners on all levels to see them pull through,” Baucus said. “I’m happy FEMA responded to our requests to grant these folks an extra boost when they need it the most.”

“This is the right decision from FEMA and the administration because it will help get the recovery money to the ground faster,” said Tester.

“This is a positive step for the families and farms that are putting their lives back together,” said U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont.