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Dayton appeals: Governor interested in FEMA split decision

ST. PAUL - Gov. Mark Dayton says he wants to look into a difference of opinion within the federal agency that rejected Minnesota's request for individual and business flood recovery aid.

Dayton said Thursday that he understands the Chicago Federal Emergency Management Agency office recommended that Minnesota get individual relief for those affected by June northeastern Minnesota floods, but FEMA headquarters in Washington rejected the application, likely out of budget concerns.

"I would like to find out more," he told reporters.

When it rejected the request, FEMA did not mention budget issues, but said not enough homes were damaged to qualify for aid.

FEMA sent Dayton a letter Wednesday saying it would not offer individual aid. Hours later, the governor announced the decision would be appealed.

When asked if he would call President Barack Obama to lobby for aid, his response was: "We'll see."

Dayton said he would like to have the issue decided by late August, when a special legislative session is expected to approve a disaster-relief package.

The funding bill would provide aid to local governments in 13 counties affected by floods and other storms last month. Also being considered is financial help for those affected by a northern Minnesota wind storm early this month and communities recovering from past disasters.

Dayton also said he is open to holding public meetings as his staff and legislators draw up a relief package. Earlier in the week, his press secretary said those meetings would be closed, but Republican legislative leaders said they preferred writing the bill in public.

The Democratic governor said that his press secretary was right when she said that most legislation usually is not crafted in public, but "they can have a working group and meet in the Metrodome as far as I'm concerned."

Meetings could begin as soon as next week, he said.

The federal government considers more than a dozen factors when deciding whether to grant individual aid.

FEMA documents indicate that individual assistance relies on factors such as concentration of damages, deaths and injuries, special populations such as the elderly being affected, what private organizations are doing to help and insurance coverage.

"Concentrated damages are far more visible and may be an indication of significant damage to infrastructure supporting neighborhoods and communities, thereby increasing the needs of individuals and families," FEMA says.