Update: Dayton wants to investigate FEMA aid differences

Dayton

Gov. Mark Dayton says he wants to look into a reported difference of opinion within the federal agency that rejected Minnesota’s request for individual flood recovery aid.

Dayton said on 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.

FEMA spokesman Richard Gifford in Duluth said he could not immediately reach anyone to confirm if there was a difference between Chicago and Washington FEMA officials.

Gifford said there is no specific formula for determining whether individual assistance is provided.

“Each disaster is a little different, but we use the same criteria for different disasters,” Gifford said.

The major reason the state’s request for individual assistance was turned down, he said, was because FEMA determined state and local governments could handle their citizens’ recovery needs.

The federal government considers more than a dozen factors when deciding whether to grant individual aid, things such as if damages are concentrated in a small area, deaths and injuries, special populations like the elderly or low-income being affected, what private organizations are doing to help and insurance coverage available to replace loses.

Dayton said he plans to appeal the FEMA rejection next week.

In the appeal, the state probably would tell FEMA about any damages not previously considered or any information not included in the original application, Gifford said. However, he added, state, local and federal officials worked together to assess individual property damage in a process before the aid application was sent.

State officials can include damage in counties not included in the first application, Gifford said.

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 Thursday 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 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.

 

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