ST. PAUL – Following record-setting snowfall in Minnesota last month, and another major snowfall event this past weekend, weather experts are predicting major flooding throughout the state this spring.
Yet Minnesota’s Disaster Assistance Contingency Account – created to allocate funds to communities impacted by natural disasters and to avoid calling special sessions to authorize the appropriation of these funds – sits empty.
To rectify this problem, House Republicans are sponsoring legislation that will replenish this needed funding so impacted cities will be able to immediately begin recovery efforts. Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, is a co-author of the bill.
“We created a contingency fund in 2014 to help us be more nimble in providing immediate relief when natural disasters occur,” Urdahl said. “That system has proved to be very useful in recent years, but it only serves its purpose if the account has money in it. The bill I am co-authoring would help the state respond quickly to what projections show could be a difficult spring for areas prone to flooding, or even impacting places where high-water concerns are more rare.”
Urdahl said the contingency account is now in the red after Minnesota responded with $11 million in relief to flooding events last year in Brainerd and Duluth.
The bill House Republicans propose would transfer $20 million in Fiscal Year 2019 and another $20 million in Fiscal Year 2020 to Minnesota’s disaster assistance contingency account, effective the day after final enactment.
Gov. Tim Walz and House Democrats have proposed putting $10 million into the account for 2019, but Urdahl said that would be insufficient based on last year’s use and this year’s flood predictions.
“We anticipate demand for contingency funding could be high and we need to make sure the account is ready to handle needs that may arise,” Urdahl said. “This needs to be done right and it needs to be done now. We can’t afford to let this important funding be dragged into the end of the session and be subject to budget negotiations in late May. By then, it very well could be too late.”
Since its creation in Fiscal Year 2014, the account held $17.466 million in Fiscal Year 2015 and $20.4 million in Fiscal Year 2016, in the same ballpark as House Republicans propose.