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Paperwork logjam frustrates flood victims south of Omaha

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 8:31 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A paperwork logjam has dammed up frustration for flood victims south of Omaha. The government buyout process started months ago, yet very few have received checks. But there’s been a breakthrough.

After Missouri River floodwater invaded their home two years ago, Matt Schoville said thieves stripped away their desire to rebuild.

“We’ve had people come through and they’ve taken doors, windows, siding — anything and everything out of the house.”

So, six months ago Schoville agreed to a $185,000 buyout with Federal Emergency Management Agency money handled by local officials.

“We didn’t expect it to take this long,” he said. “Our patience has run out. It’s unreal. It’s disgusting how long it’s taken.”

Iowa requires abstract closings and Fremont County has one person for that tedious process. Since January, she’s completed two, and 14 flood victims are still waiting for buyouts.

“It’s been a long, drawn-out and frustrating process for all of us,” said Tyler Loontjer, deputy attorney for Fremont County. “I want them to know that all of us here at the county are giving our best to keep them in mind.”

But after action today by the Fremont County board, closings are no longer swimming upstream. The current process for titling flood property is changing, and that should quicken the flow of buyout money. So flood victims who have waited months for a check could see one by July. The state is allowing Fremont County to use title insurance to speed up the distribution of $1.5 million in flood buyout funds.

“If they can hang on just a little bit longer, I think we’re on a good path now, and we’re getting very close to getting all of them taken care of,” Loontjer said.

What’s left of the Schoville home can then be torn down and replaced with green space. But Schoville said that, like the flood, the process of getting financial help shouldn’t be forgotten.

“And I hope us dong this will make it easier if it ever happens again,” he said.

Loontjer said flood victims in Hamburg, Iowa, have faced similar delays due to the lengthy abstract requirement. More than 70 buyouts still being processed, with only a half-dozen done so far. He said the change to title insurance is expected to speed up those closings in the community.

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