Officials eye late-August legislative session for NE Minnesota disaster
Minority leader said insurance should cover northern Minnesota storm damage
ST. PAUL - State leaders are shooting for a special legislative session in late August, but they must wait until federal officials decide what aid they will provide after last month's northeastern Minnesota flooding.
Gov. Mark Dayton hosted the four legislative leaders Wednesday afternoon, emerging from the private meeting saying they agreed the session would be limited to disaster assistance. However, Dayton said the five must wait to make specific decisions until the federal government announces whether to fund public infrastructure repairs and if it will provide any aid to individuals.
The five agreed the state would pick up the local tab for what the federal government does not pay to fix public facilities. Federal funds pay 75 percent of approved costs.
"We are going to come through for those who have been affected by this," Dayton said.
Still up in the air is whether the legislative session will deal with past disasters, such as Wadena's request for funds to help replace public facilities lost in a 2010 tornado.
While Dayton said the session may consider helping individuals, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he would recommend that people involved in the flood not expect state help. He said the Legislature has not done that in the past.
Bakk also said that a storm last week across much of northern Minnesota probably did not cause enough damage to receive federal aid. He said some of the wind damage should be covered by insurance, but the flood that hit Duluth and other northeast Minnesota communities on June 20 mostly affected people who did not have flood insurance.
The official estimate of public facility damage in the flood was $108 million, although Dayton said it could rise as high as $150 million.
Officials this week are assessing damage to private property and Dayton said he expects next week to ask for federal individual and business aid. However, recent disasters have produced an average of $1,400 for individuals, he said, which is far less than damage they needed to repair.