Senator Roger Reinert and others on the Joint House & Senate Disaster Relief Working Group met Wednesday for the second time to review the proposed $189 million disaster relief package. If passed, the legislation would provide significant assistance for the areas of Duluth hit hardest by the June floods.
“The meeting was productive, and I was encouraged to see the ‘sticker shock’ some expressed last week has lessened,” said Senator Reinert.
Senator Reinert went on to say, “I continue to believe we are in the right ballpark in providing assistance 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.
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. Much of the state’s assistance will be paid back by the federal government as reimbursable expenditures are submitted.
“I hope we can have at least one more working group meeting next week,” said Senator Reinert. “I continue to push for special session on August 24 so the people in our community can continue moving forward from the disaster.”