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The ultimate rainy day fund: The State Disaster Assistance Contingency Account

May 11, 2017

Debris after a tornado in Freeborn County.
Photo: Residents of Freeborn County suffered damage from a March 6 tornado, but the county was the first to receive State Disaster Assistance in 2017, which will help repair damages to public property and infrastructure.​


The thing about rainy day funds is that you never really think about them until you need them. And aside from a handful of people in the Department of Public Safety’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management division, the Minnesota Disaster Assistance Contingency Account is the same way.

The people of Freeborn and Kittson counties are certainly thinking about that rainy day money, though. That’s because they’re the first two counties to receive State Disaster Assistance in 2017. On March 6, an F1 tornado touched down in Freeborn County and caused $61,000 in damages to public property and infrastructure. In Kittson County, Red River tributaries flooded between March 27 and April 13, causing $142,000 in damages to public property and infrastructure.

So what exactly does that mean? Well, when disaster strikes, the state assists local authorities with the recovery process through the Minnesota Disaster Assistance Contingency Account. The account, along with the State Disaster Assistance program, was signed into law in 2014.

In order to be eligible for funds from the account, a county’s public property or infrastructure damages must meet or exceed 50 percent of the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s population-based threshold. In this case, Freeborn’s state damage indicator is $56,000, and Kittson’s is $8,000; both well below the actual damages assessed.

Once the Governor authorizes state assistance, communities are reimbursed 75 percent of their cleanup and repair expenses. The county itself is responsible for the other 25 percent of the costs.

Last year alone, the State Disaster Contingency Account provided $12.8 million in assistance to communities affected by nine major severe weather events. Today, the Disaster Assistance program speeds up the recovery process for communities burdened with repairing unanticipated damages to public property and infrastructure, such as roads, utilities, and public buildings.

In all, 35 Minnesota communities — including 31 counties and four tribal nations – were reimbursed through the program in 2016 and have firsthand knowledge of just how beneficial it is when times get tough. So when the rains come – or the winds, or the flooding – know that there’s a rainy day fund set aside so Minnesota communities can begin the recovery process quickly and get back on their feet.