A flood aid package meant to assist more than half of Minnesota counties hit with severe flooding cleared the Minnesota Senate on Thursday.
The federal government has expanded Minnesota’s flood disaster declaration to 24 more counties and two tribal governments. Last month President Barack Obama declared a disaster in eight Minnesota counties damaged by flooding, unleashing federal funds to help repair millions in damages.
On Monday, Governor Mark Dayton signed an emergency bill into law, sending disaster aid to Minnesota counties hit hard by a week of severe summer storms in June. Eighteen Minnesota counties – including the largest, Hennepin County – were hit by high winds, torrential rains and widespread flooding during the five days of storms. Damage was heavy in the southeastern part of the state, where lawmakers – including Republican Rep. Greg Davids of Preston – thanked Minnesotans for their help.
A special session is expected to get underway today at the Minnesota State Capitol. Lawmakers are expected to deal with disaster relief after last June’s storms.
This week’s special legislative session to approve less than $5 million for storm recovery has some Minnesota lawmakers questioning whether increasingly frequent disaster-relief gatherings are even necessary. “If all we’re doing is matching federal money, particularly at a low figure like $4.5 million, that should not require a special session,” said Rep. Gene Pelowski.
A joint House-Senate committee is beginning the work of developing a storm disaster aid package that Minnesota lawmakers will consider in an emergency session next month. A working group for the Legislature was convening Wednesday night.
State and federal officials are fanning out this week across 18 Minnesota counties for briefings with local leaders about available aid to recover from severe storms in late June. The contingent from Minnesota’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management will be joined by representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Romney was asked at a presidential debate whether FEMA should be shut down in light of the deficit. Romney replied that FEMA should “absolutely” be shut down. He was asked specifically if that included disaster relief. He replied that it was “immoral” to provide such relief in the face of “larger debts”, emphasizing that “it makes no sense at all” to have such programs.
As Hurricane Isaac threatens the Gulf again, we will see if Katrina and Isaac serve as bookends of GOP hostility to federal disaster relief. An odd stance for a party that claims to “choose life” while watching people die in natural disasters rather than provide an adequate response.
The Minnesota Pork Board is helping with disaster relief efforts in Japan.