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ON Congress approves $350,000 in Housing Assistance after Barnsdall tornado

A FEMA Recovery Center opened in Barnsdall on May 29 in the Early Childhood Learning Center. The center will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

In wake of the May 6 devastating tornadic storm that hit Barnsdall, the Eighth Osage Nation Congress approved an appropriation bill with $350,000 in Housing Assistance funding for residents in need of home repairs.

During the May 16 emergency special session, Congress voted to approve bill ONCA 24-55 (sponsored by Congresswoman Jodie Revard) with the housing assistance funding. Revard courtesy sponsored the bill after hearing the funding request from Executive Branch officials who were among various state, federal and tribal entities responding to Barnsdall after the EF-4 tornado damaged or destroyed many homes, including those with Osage households.

ONCA 24-55’s appropriation totals $364,746 and includes the $350,000 for the direct assistance to be administered. The remaining funding will go to the Financial Assistance Department for a new employee position to help with any additional burdens to administer services, said Congressional Budget Analyst Jordan Fraser.

Casey Johnson, Secretary of Development for the Executive Branch, said he visited with new incoming Housing Department Director Talee Redcorn during the storm response efforts. “We were out at some other Osages’ homes and they have some really bad damage, one totally lost, and we’ve got some roofs peeling off of others and he talked about ‘well, we can get emergency on that money if we can get an appropriation’ to help these folks get their houses back to where they’re water-tight in keeping the weather out … I think it’s kind of an important deal to do, we’ll have a lot of folks that need just some repairs, we can’t replace whole homes, but we can repair those that are slightly damaged or fairly damaged.”

Revard also invited Redcorn to visit with the Congressional Appropriations Committee (currently chaired by Revard) to discuss the request during the special session. Formerly a project manager in the Tribal Development and Land Acquisition Department, Redcorn recently moved into the housing department director post after predecessor Sheridan Pickering left the Nation and now works for the Southern Plains Office of Native American Programs under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Redcorn addressed the committee: “I’m really proud of our (Housing Department) folks that respond like they did, we set up a table like (Johnson) asked us to do and ‘get out there and start handing out applications, communicating with the people’ and we did that.”

Brandon Wallace, Construction Manager for the Housing Department, told the committee: “I made it my mission in the past several years of being in Housing to be an advocate for people who need help. Decent, safe and sanitary is kind of the guidelines we go by and going to Barnsdall this past week, the devastation that I’ve seen, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. Went to John Henry (Mashunkashey’s) house and he’s sitting on the front porch and he just doesn’t know what he’s going to do and luckily me and Talee got together and we were able to have a place for him to go up in Senior Housing now.”

“But the homes that I’ve seen, there are homes that can be repaired, so what we’ve asked for to add to our (assistance) funds is (originally $200,000) and that would be up to $20,000 per applicant,” Wallace said of the appropriation request. “Some of these homes won’t take that much … It can do a lot of good things for these people. Me and my crew went through the neighborhoods, we were clearing trees, tarping roofs, just helping out where we can. I manned the table for a couple of days with (fellow employee) Rachel Peery and we passed out a little over 100 applications. I had a list of (Osage) Barnsdall residents from the CDIB office and I just started calling and if I didn’t reach them, I left a voicemail to just let them know we’re here, ‘if you need assistance, please call us.’”

“The collaboration between the departments has been outstanding,” Wallace said. “We would like to get this money for the people of Barnsdall and do what we can to get them back in their homes if that’s possible and those other options can be explored at a later day.”

Congressman Eli Potts asked the housing officials if the original amount was enough. Redcorn said the request was based on an initial field assessment.

After committee discussion, Potts proposed a bill amendment to increase the bill’s amount to $350,000, which received unanimous approval.

After the committee adjourned, the Congress reconvened and Revard proposed amending the bill to add funding for the additional employee position, which passed during the amendment portion of the session.

As for the Housing Assistance for Barnsdall residents, Redcorn said he and staff discussed developing an application process with Osage preference first. Marissa Turley, housing program coordinator, told the committee, the planned application process would give preference with “the first layer of Osage tribal members, then we might move to families with Osage children that are underage that wouldn’t actually be the homeowner, but still need a place to live, and maybe Native (non-Osage) and we can tower down after that if we see any real need for non-Native (applicants). And then after that, any (remaining) money would be moved over to (other assistance to serve) Osage tribal members.”    

ONCA 24-55 passed with a 12-0 vote during the special session and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear signed the bill afterward.

For more information on assistance and services offered by the Osage Nation, visit these entities online:

Housing Department: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/services/housing

Financial Assistance: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/services/financial-assistance 

FEMA announces Recovery Center opening in Barnsdall

On May 29, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that a Disaster Recovery Center is opening in Barnsdall at the Early Childhood Learning Center. Recovery centers opened in other Oklahoma communities also experiencing tornadic storms this spring.

In a news release, FEMA stated the Disaster Recovery Center is opening “in Osage County to help Oklahomans affected by the April 25 – May 9 severe storms, straight-line winds, tornadoes, and flooding continue their recovery.”

The center will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at the Early Childhood Learning Center located at 401 S. 10th St.

Residents and businesses in Carter, Hughes, Kay, Lincoln, Love, Murray, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Osage, Pontotoc, Pottawatomie, Washington, and Washita counties can visit the center to apply for FEMA assistance, upload documents, learn about available resources and get their questions answered in person. Recovery specialists from FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration and other organizations will be available to meet with visitors – no appointment is needed.

To apply for FEMA assistance without visiting a center, go online to www.disasterassistance.gov or download the FEMA App or call the FEMA Helpline at (800) 621-3362. Calls are accepted from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Central Time.

Author

  • Benny Polacca

    Title: Senior Reporter

    Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

    Instagram: @bpolacca

    Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

    Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

    Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

    Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

    Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.

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Benny Polacca
Benny Polaccahttps://osagenews.org

Title: Senior Reporter

Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

Instagram: @bpolacca

Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.

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