Disaster Assistance Approved in Sept. 9 Special Session

The disaster assistance bill was approved without amendments.
(Published Sep 16, 2013)

As expected, Gov. Dayton called the Legislature back to St. Paul on Sept. 9 for a special session to deal with disaster relief related to damage from summer storms that resulted in federal disaster declarations for a number of Minnesota counties. The bill was processed by both legislative bodies and signed into law by the governor as Chapter 1 of the 2013 1st Special Session.

The governor and the leaders of both parties in the House and Senate pre-agreed to a package of relief totaling $4.5 million that would cover the 25 percent non-federal match requirements for local governments that qualified for federal disaster assistance. New funds were not needed to cover those expenses, as adequate balances remained unspent from the 2012 disaster assistance package. Authority to spend that amount from various parts of that previous appropriation was transferred as part of the special session legislation.

The final agreement also included additional resources for several southwest Minnesota communities that qualified for federal disaster assistance after ice storms last spring. These were for communities with large recovery costs remaining that are not eligible for federal assistance and were not included in the end-of-session assistance funding package passed by the 2013 state Legislature. The City of Worthington received an additional $99,141, and Rock and Nobles counties each received an added $60,000. Those funds came from redirecting budget appropriations of the Department of Public Safety.

A broader area of discussion that it is clear will be starting during the next legislative session is how state disaster assistance statutes may need to be changed to deal with perceived fairness issues, including eligibility of electric co-ops for state match assistance and ways to address communities that have significant public infrastructure damage, but do not meet countywide requirements to be declared federal disaster areas.

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