ST. PAUL, MN – Today, in a special session, members of the Minnesota Legislature worked together to deliver disaster relief for twenty Minnesota counties that recently sustained widespread damage caused by severe weather. Governor Mark Dayton signed the disaster aid bill into law this afternoon, providing over $4.7 million in state assistance to communities impacted by strong storms, flooding, and a spring ice storm that caused millions of dollars in damage in southwestern Minnesota.
“When a disaster strikes we are all Minnesotans; we are not Republicans or Democrats,” said Governor Dayton. “The legislature, to its credit, showed that today. I commend legislators for responding swiftly and positively to providing needed financial aid to the Minnesota counties devastated by storms earlier this year.”
Strong Storms and Flooding in June
In June, eighteen Minnesota counties experienced widespread damage caused by strong storms and flooding. Parts of the state experienced record 48-hour rainfall amounts, causing flash flooding and mudslides in many locations. Thousands of trees were uprooted and fell on buildings and roads. Following the storm, more than 600,000 buildings were without electricity – making it the largest power outage in Minnesota history.
In July, President Obama declared a major disaster for eighteen counties hardest-hit by the storm, making Minnesota eligible for federal public assistance – aid that covers uninsured losses of counties, cities, townships, and non-profit organizations. Affected counties in the Presidential Disaster Declaration included: Benton, Big Stone, Douglas, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Grant, Hennepin, Houston, McLeod, Morrison, Pope, Sibley, Stearns, Stevens, Swift, Traverse and Wilkin.
According to estimates from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the state’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management division (HSEM), damage to public infrastructure caused by the storm totaled $17.8 million. The federal government will cover 75 percent of those costs. The remaining share, totaling $4.5 million, will be paid by the state. The bill signed into law by Governor Dayton provides the state’s share, helping pay for debris removal and repair to roads and bridges, utilities, parks, and other infrastructure.
Southwest Minnesota Ice Storm
In April, a major ice storm caused over $26 million in damage to public infrastructure in southwestern Minnesota, including widespread damage to trees and power lines. Thousands of homes and businesses were without electricity. President Obama declared a major federal disaster for the affected counties, delivering $19.7 million in federal aid. The Minnesota Legislature appropriated $1.75 million in state aid for affected counties during the 2013 Legislative Session. The bill signed into law today provides greater flexibility for Rock and Nobles counties, and the City of Worthington, to spend $220,000 for debris removal and other disaster relief efforts.
PHOTO DOWNLOAD: Governor Dayton signs a disaster relief bill following a special session of the legislature. He is joined by the chief authors of the bill, Rep. Jeanne Poppe, and Sen. Richard Cohen.