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Notes from last night's Dialogues program

Notes from the Post-Bulletin Dialogues event at the Rochester library last night -- "lightly attended" would be an accurate description, though those who attended were government and nonprofit people who had a lot of information to share.

    The disaster is on-going in Rushford, Stockton and other area towns, and the news media must continue reporting the story.

    Long-term recovery committees are now being set up in affected towns.

    "We're in this for the long haul," said Melanie Tschida of the Southeast Minnesota chapter of the American Red Cross. "In the case of Red Cross, we're still here and still involved" and will be long after the current phase has wrapped up.

    Four United Way chapters are at work in the flood area -- United Way of Olmsted County, United Way of Greater Winona, the Wabasha-Pierce-Red Wing chapter, and the La Crosse, Wis., chapter, which covers Houston County.

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    One of the strongest messages from FEMA and Small Business Administration officials was to encourage flood victims to file for SBA assistance. While 4,000 people have registered with FEMA, only 15 percent have taken the next step and applied for SBA assistance. There's no obligation to accept SBA loans if approved but that step is required for additional aid that may be available.

    The deadline for FEMA and SBA registration and applications is Oct. 22.

    Homeowners and others need to be aware of mold issues -- getting quality reconstruction that eliminates future problems with mold, and health issues related to mold.

    FEMA official Elizabeth Childs, who responds to disasters nationwide, said this was her first trip to the Midwest and "I'm amazed" at what she described as the Midwestern ethic of people helping their neighbors, and how the media has responded.

    Tschida assisted in media relations after the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis and came away with horror stories about how some reporters tried to gain access to family members of victims...

    According to a FEMA officials, the media needs to better explain flood insurance and how it's basically available to all. More than 25 percent of payouts on flood insurance have been to people who lived outside of mapped flood plains.

    As SBA official Carl Sherill said, quoting a woman whose home was washed away by the flood, "We'll get through this," and the government stands ready to help. "These funds are your taxpayer funds -- there's plenty of money available and we're not going to run out." But they're only available if you apply by the October deadline.

I'll wrap this up with an e-mail I received from a reader yesterday:

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The P-B coverage of the flood has been better than excellent. The local TV station really missed it. First after the flood, then trying to catch up, but not getting enough info out to the public. While I sometimes have complaints about the P-B (don't we all), I have told many people how pleased I am with the amount of coverage and the depth of the stories.

The only complaint I would have is that Rushford seems to be the main topic. Early after the flood there was an article about Elba being isolated. Since then, there has been little coverage. I think the communities that get the coverage will keep getting help; otherwise, not.

Thanks.

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