Minnesota officials pledge cooperation to deliver disaster reliefMinnesota leaders promise to work together toward an anticipated late-August special legislative session to help communities hit by June storms.
By: Don Davis, Forum Communications
ST. PAUL — Minnesota leaders promise to work together toward an anticipated late-August special legislative session to help communities hit by June storms.
“We are going to come through for those who have been affected by this,” Gov. Mark Dayton said after an hourlong Wednesday meeting with legislative leaders, but details must be worked out and that cannot happen until the state knows how much federal money to expect.
Although votes in the full Legislature are needed to make it official, the leaders agreed that the state should pick up local government costs related to a June 20 flood in Duluth and elsewhere in Northeastern Minnesota and for storms that passed through Goodhue, Dakota and nearby counties south of the Twin Cities.
President Obama last week declared counties affected by the June storm disaster areas, meaning 75 percent of local government costs would be paid by Washington. Wednesday’s agreement means the state would pay the other 25 percent if the full Legislature approves.
However, just how expensive that will be remains to be determined. The state’s application for federal aid listed public facility damage, such as roads, sewers and public buildings, at $108 million. Dayton on Wednesday said that figure could rise to $150 million.
Dayton said he expects the state to submit a request next week seeking federal help for individuals and businesses.
While Dayton said the legislative session may consider helping individuals, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he would recommend that people affected by the flood and wind storms not expect state aid. He said the Legislature has not done that in the past.
Dayton said the average federal payment to Minnesotans in recent disasters has been $1,400, far below what was needed.
Still to be decided is whether past disasters, such as replacing public facilities destroyed in a 2010 Wadena tornado, could be part of the special session.
Also up in the air is whether last week’s wind storm across much of northern Minnesota will be part of a disaster-relief plan. Dayton and Bakk said the storm probably did not cause enough damage to receive federal aid, but state officials are working with local governments to determine whether state help is needed.
Bakk said some of the wind damage should be covered by insurance, but the flood that hit Duluth and other Northeastern Minnesota communities on June 20 mostly affected people who did not have flood insurance.