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 – including the Delano area – 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.
“The flooding Delano experienced in 2014 is still fresh in our minds,” said Rep. Joe McDonald, R-Delano. “That incident is Exhibit A for why we created this contingency fund to improve the response time in delivering emergency assistance. We were wise in Delano to have implemented flood-mitigation systems in recent years and we are now better protected from suffering similar damage, but we need to be prepared and the contingency account does us no good sitting empty.”
McDonald 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 McDonald said that would be insufficient based on last year’s use and this year’s flood predictions.
“We need to make sure there is enough funding available to meet demand, and we just saw how quickly flooding in two cities can consume $11 million,” McDonald said. “As someone who owns and operates a family business a block away from the Crow River, I am fully aware of the threats, difficulties and hardships that arise from flooding. We would be wise to restore this account, especially at a time when the state has a $1 billion surplus. This issue is too big to push it off until the end of the session, when it may be too late and defeat the purpose of having this contingency account.”
Since its creation in Fiscal Year 2014, the account held $17.5 million in Fiscal Year 2015 and $20.4 million in Fiscal Year 2016, in the same ballpark as House Republicans propose.