Passed 125-0, it now heads to Gov. Tim Walz’s desk. It was passed 66-0 by the Senate March 5.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Gene Pelowski, Jr. (DFL-Winona) and Senate President Jeremy Miller (R-Winona), would transfer $30 million in fiscal year 2020 from the General Fund to the Disaster Assistance Contingency Account.
Since its 2014 creation, the account has been funded each biennium. In addition to providing money for uninsured damage to public infrastructure and response costs, it pays the nonfederal share of presidential declarations (25%), and funds the state share of gubernatorial declarations (75%).
Between 2018 and 2019 the state received three federal disaster declarations and had 16 gubernatorial disaster declarations. There were 1,400 applications for disaster relief assistance from cities, townships, counties and tribal governments, according to information from the Public Safety Department.
These disasters have increased demand for funds and exhausted the account. It’s anticipated that the account will run a $3 million deficit once the state’s cost share for a 2019 spring flood disaster is paid.
The bill would cover the projected shortfall, provide $20 million for anticipated spring 2020 disaster expenses, and provide $7 million for disaster assistance for the remainder of the 2020-21 biennium.
“This gets us basically back out of the hole from the last year’s floods and such; this puts us back on solid footing,” said Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck).
Due to the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters, Anderson suggested lawmakers consider providing permanent funding in case there is a major incident when the Legislature is not in session.