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The next step in disaster assistance

Oct. 8, 2018

A washedout road with broken pieces of tar after flooding

In July, we told you about the first step to recovery for the 27 Minnesota counties and three tribal nations damaged by the severe storms and flooding between June 15 and July 11.

Since then, officials at local, county, state and federal levels have been hard at work, assessing damages, cleaning up, and applying for a federal Major Disaster Declaration. The latter happened on Sept. 5, when Governor Dayton secured the Presidential Disaster Declaration, thus making it possible to apply for funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Public Assistance Program.

The Public Assistance Program is an important source of recovery funds for disaster-damaged public property and infrastructure. Without it, states would have to bear the costs of disasters on their own. Instead, the affected counties and tribes get assistance for debris removal; protective measures; and the repair, replacement, and restoration of public property and infrastructure. For that last item, think of things like roads, utilities, parks and public buildings. As for the protective measures, the Public Assistance Program helps protect damaged areas with cost-effective hazard mitigation during the recovery process. That way, they’re less likely to be damaged during future disasters.

So how does it work? Right now, FEMA is here in Minnesota to assist us through the process. They’re giving briefings across the state, now that the damage assessments have identified more than $21 million in eligible damages. This week and next, teams from Minnesota’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) division are meeting with county and tribal officials, formulating project worksheets to receive public assistance. Once approved, FEMA covers 75 percent of the eligible costs for repair and recovery work, and the state of Minnesota covers the rest using our State Disaster Contingency Account.

Public assistance isn’t the only recovery money available, though. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering low-interest disaster assistance loans up to $200,000 to private property owners (both homes and businesses) in Lyon, Redwood, and surrounding counties who sustained damages between June 15 and July 12. The application deadline for these SBA loans is Oct 29 for physical property damage – so don’t delay -- and May 28, 2019, for economic injury.

This summer’s storms really took their toll. But by getting public and small business assistance and working together, we can recover and even protect Minnesota from future damage.