The following questions were asked recently on the Wonderline:

Q: Has the full damage assessment for the state been finalized or is that still in progress?

A: According to a recent release by the governor’s office “the full impact of the recent blizzards and widespread flooding is still being assessed. As floodwaters recede, more areas of the state are being assessed for damage. Additionally, aerial assessments are also occurring to the extent possible. This process will continue until all the damaged areas are assessed.

“In the meantime, storm-affected individuals and businesses are encouraged to report damage to their county emergency management officials. It is important the county emergency management officials have the most complete pictures of the impacts, as the data is then provided to state emergency managers in conjunction with officials from FEMA.”

Q: Will individual property owners be able to access federal dollars for relief or will that money just go to public infrastructure and that type of thing?

A: The governor’s office says homeowners and renters and property owners in the counties of Butler, Cass, Colfax, Dodge, Douglas, Nemaha, Sarpy, Saunders and Washington are eligible to apply for federal disaster assistance. This assistance can include help with making temporary repairs to their disaster-damaged houses, paying for another short-term place to live while permanent repairs are being made and/or help with serious, disaster-related needs not already covered by other programs.

Q: It’s been over a month since the Waco Fire Department was affected by that horrible situation on Interstate 80. We understand they have decided to not publicly say the names of the firefighters who were injured, but is there any way we can make a donation for those people and/or the department itself in order to help replace the equipment that was damaged?

A: Actually, there is going to be a benefit at the fire station in Waco on Saturday, April 6, from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. They will be serving a pulled pork meal and freewill offerings will be accepted with all proceeds going toward the department and the three members who were seriously injured.

Q: I actually heard there was a potential scam taking place in which someone was posing as being a charity that would take donations and help flood victims – but they just intended to keep the money for themselves. Can you put out there information for people so they know who is legitimate and who is not? I think this is particularly important for elderly people who sometimes fall victim to those ruthless and cunning criminals.

A: We received this request from several local agencies as there are unfortunately worries about people trying to take advantage of the situation in Nebraska and scam people who just want to help the flood victims.

The Nebraska Attorney General’s office has provided advice to help avoid being scammed in this manner:

• It is best to donate to organizations whose reputations you are familiar with and those having a local presence.

• Be cautious about fundraising efforts initiated on social media with no known ties to an established organization or local charity.

• Carefully evaluate the charity before making a donation. Resources such as Charity Navigator, GuideStar, IRS Select Check, the National Center for Charitable Statistics, and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance all provide information about established charities.

• Designate the disaster so you can ensure your funds are going to disaster relief, rather than a general fund.

• Don’t fall for imposters. Watch out for charities with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. Sometimes these sound-alike names are designed to confuse donors. If you receive an email, telephone call, or text message asking for a donation, confirm that the request is from the charity, and not an imposter, by contacting the charity or visiting its website before making the donation.

• Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by credit card or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals or send money via money transfer.

• Be especially wary of unsolicited emails that contain attachments or links to websites, as they may download harmful malware onto your computer.

• Be cautious when donating to a recently-formed charity. These organizations have less experience handling donations, especially those intended to assist with a natural disaster.

• Ask questions. Contact the charity to ask how your donation will be used for disaster relief. If they cannot give you answers, consider donating elsewhere.

• Use peer-to-peer fundraising platforms carefully. Watch for hidden fees and make sure you know how your personal information may be used after you donate. When possible, make your donation payable to a charitable organization and not a specific person.

• Get permission and all the details before raising money on behalf of a charity or individual. Contact the charity or individual beforehand to get permission and determine how and where donations should be sent. This will also provide you with an opportunity to confirm that any representations you’ll be making are truthful.

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