The Joint House & Senate Disaster Relief Working Group, of which Senator Roger Reinert is a member, met for nearly three hours yesterday to review proposed disaster relief legislation totaling $189 million, which includes significant assistance for the areas of Duluth hit hardest by June’s flood.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” said Senator Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth). “I was very satisfied to see that my areas of primary concern are well-addressed in the current proposal.”
The proposed legislation is based on state agencies’ review of disaster response needs. A majority of the flood recovery package would be paid for through state bond sales and the remaining balance of $55 million would be appropriated from Minnesota’s budget reserve account.
“There was some discussion of the bill being too small or too large, but I believe it’s appropriately sized,” Reinert said. “Much needed assistance is provided to those severely impacted by the June floods—public infrastructure, private property owners, nonprofits, and our parks and trails system.”
The major expenditures in the proposal include $82 million for road and bridge repair not covered by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) aid, $22 million for state park cleanup and flood mitigation, $20 million for employment and economic development, and $13 million for housing finance to help the owners of 1,700 damaged homes.
In relation to Duluth-specific concerns, the proposal includes:
• A 25% FEMA match, not just for Duluth, but for all local government budgets stretched thin from debt incurred making essential and immediate repairs.
• Forgivable Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) loans available to repair flood damaged homes for residents who retain their homes for at least the next 10 years.
• Flood hazard mitigation funding in Duluth for unique situations in which residents’ homes were condemned or destroyed.
“The 25% FEMA match, forgivable loans, and hazard mitigation dollars are absolutely crucial next steps for families and the Duluth community to continue recovery and moving forward,” said Senator Reinert.
No votes were taken at the meeting, but work will continue on the legislation in preparation of the planned August 24 special session.