President Ronald Reagan, during a news conference on Aug. 12, 1986, quipped, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’”
Over the past quarter century, that phrase has found its way into the fabric of society and onto the fabric of countless T-shirts as Americans have embraced the words that speak the belief there is little that could be called helpful when the government comes knocking on our doors.
The actions of state and federal government in the weeks since flooding ravaged portions of Morris and Grundy County, however, have done much to lessen the terror that Reagan acknowledged could surround the arrival of government representatives.
Gov. Quinn, in the first days after the flood, visited the area and, as a result, did what he needed to do to secure a federal disaster declaration.
Since President Obama made the requested declaration, representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been readily available to not only local officials, but members of the public who were directly impacted by the flooding.
And, believe, it or not, these government representatives have not only said they are here to help, but they have been doing just that.
From now through Sunday — with specified hours of 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and shorter hours on Sunday — FEMA is manning an information booth at the Morris Menards store in an effort to spread the word about hazard mitigation.
FEMA specialists there can answer questions about building techniques that can reduct the potential for damage from future storms, as well as offer flood cleanup tips and techniques, flood- and wind-resistant building methods, elevated appliances and flood insurance.
This mitigation training effort follows several days of FEMA offering a Disaster Recovery Center in Morris to allow individuals an opportunity to sit face-to-face with a representative who could answer their questions about applying for government assistance to aid in their flood recovery.
The efforts to answer questions and aid in registering with FEMA for possible relief, Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson noted Thursday, will continue well into next month.
A FEMA representative, Severson said, will appear before the county board at its meeting on June 11 to provide an update on the response. That individual will then be available to meeting with members of the public about their particular concerns or questions.
The only thing, however, that will make all of these efforts by FEMA worthwhile and TRULY helpful is if local residents affected by the flooding take the necessary steps to accept the government help that could be available to them.
Those affected by the flood, in order to get the financial assistance for which they could be eligible, must register with FEMA. Individuals can register online at www.disasterassistance.gov or via a web-enable phone at m.fema.gov.
Applicants may also call 1-800-621-3362 or (TTY) 1-800-462-7587. The toll-free numbers operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
People do not need to visit the information booth or a Disaster Recover Center to register.
But they do need to register.
Even the government can’t help if individuals don’t voice their need for help.
So, if you need assistance, seek out the Federal Emergency Management Agency and take the necessary steps.
If you don’t take the necessary steps, then don’t complain that the government did not help you.
This time, the government was here to help ... and help it has.
The Morris Daily Herald’s editorial decisions are made by an editorial board lead by General Manager Bob Wall and editors Patrick Graziano and Mark Malone. Decisions are made in consultation with other members of the MDH staff as appropriate.