Our region was dealt some pretty rough news last week when we heard the Federal Emergency Management Agency would not be granting individual assistance to flood victims. Apparently, officials did not find the level of damage necessary to qualify for these federal funds. In my opinion, FEMA’s decision is dead wrong. I’ve been to the destroyed homes and businesses in our communities and have seen what people are facing. I’m shocked that damage of this extent doesn’t meet federal standards, and I’m very disappointed with the outcome.
Governor Mark Dayton and state officials are appealing FEMA’s decision, and we certainly wish that action will produce different results. But, we’re not confident – there is a high threshold to meet FEMA’s requirements, and other major Minnesota disasters, such as last summer’s Minneapolis tornado, also haven’t achieved FEMA-relief status. FEMA is looking for at least 500 destroyed and damaged homes in order to grant assistance; disaster-wide, our region has recorded 171 damaged properties.
FEMA’s rejection in no way diminishes the very real, very vast damage that homes, businesses and personal lives have suffered this summer. I’ve seen this firsthand, and that’s why I am continuing to work with state officials to make sure our limited state resources can be flexibly used to best meet the needs of families struggling through this.
The first step is to apply for federal Small Business Administration help. That organization provides low-interest loans to businesses and individuals to aid in recovery efforts, and the likelihood of receiving that assistance is good.
The second step is to continue working on a plan for state financial assistance that the legislature can discuss and pass during a special session in the next few weeks. This is a long process that we’ve been working on since hours after the flood waters receded; it includes gathering information from affected property owners, assessing the level of state support that is needed, and reviewing available resources to determine which tools will be most effective in helping the region recover. I continue to be engaged in regular meetings on this topic and expect details to be discussed in earnest now that we know the status of the federal assistance.
This tragedy affected our corner of the state, but I assure you that there is statewide interest in helping us all recover. Minnesota has a tradition of coming together to help specific regions that are suffering. I’m part of a small group of lawmakers working on special session details, but I’ve received support from a diverse group of my colleagues and have faith we will all unite to make sure the state does right by the people of Northeast Minnesota.
Again, this is an ongoing process that will require all of us to work together. If you have any information you’d like to share, or if you simply have questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com; 651-296-0293; or at 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.