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Bouncing back: The dollars and cents of storm recovery

July 31, 2017

Photo of a storm-damaged road.
​Photo: Even if a storm causes no damage to your home, it can still affect your life profoundly by damaging public structures and roads you use every day. Find out how the State Disaster Contingency Account helps get things back on track.

What does a typical day look like for you? Get a shower, drive to work, maybe pick the kids up after school and take them to the library? Or maybe you take some time to yourself for a quiet walk or run in the park, or a round of golf, then home to make some dinner.

So what happens when severe weather comes along and damages some or all of those things? Even if you’re lucky enough that your home comes through the storm unscathed, it can still affect your life profoundly. Trees fall and damage parks, golf courses, and public buildings. Water supply and other utilities may get interrupted. Maybe the school’s foundation gets damaged, making it unsafe for your kids to attend. And even if all of those things remain perfectly intact, what if roads or bridges get washed out or otherwise damaged, making it impossible for you to get there?

Of course your local and county government agencies will leap into action, making rescues, establishing detours, clearing debris, and repairing everything from recreational areas to public buildings. And all this takes – you guessed it – money. Money your local government may not have in its budget.

In fact, before 2014, most storm damage costs were borne by city and county governments. In cases with greater damages, the legislature would approve funds to reimburse local governments for eligible costs – but in many cases, that required a special session. The process was clunky and time consuming.

But then the State Disaster Contingency Account was signed into law, and since then, an estimated $32 million dollars has been used from the account to reimburse townships, cities and counties for eligible disaster-related costs. Not included in that figure is the recent authorization of $153,000 in State Disaster Assistance funds for Big Stone, Stevens and Winona counties due to severe weather in June. Forty counties and five tribal nations have received state disaster assistance since 2014. As severe weather season continues, even more Minnesota counties will likely seek State Disaster Assistance to get help paying for:

  • Debris removal and disposal

  • Emergency response costs and protective measures

  • Roads and bridges

  • Water control facilities

  • Buildings and equipment

  • Utilities

  • Parks and recreational areas

So next time the rains come, don’t worry too much about your city or township’s ability to bounce back. Thanks to the State Disaster Contingency Account, you’ll be taking those quiet walks in the park again very soon.