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, legislation is being introduced in the House to replenish this needed funding so impacted cities will be able to immediately begin recovery efforts. Rep. Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, is a co-author of one such bill and she also has been supportive of similar measures during committee hearings
“This is not a partisan issue, it is a Minnesota issue,” Demuth said. “The state created a contingency account several years ago to help provide a swift response when assistance is needed. That only works if there is money in the account and we need to make sure resources are there if and when flooding occurs this spring. The people of Minnesota are counting on us to make this happen, so let’s get it done now.”
Demuth said the contingency account is now drained 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 2019 and another $20 million in 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 Demuth said that total could prove to be inadequate based on last year’s use and this year’s flood predictions.
“It’s not like any unused funding will be wasted,” Demuth said. “You never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at us next, so it would be good if we had some sort of cushion even beyond any flooding that may occur in the short term.”
Since its creation in 2014, the account held $17.5 million in 2015 and $20.4 million in 2016, similar to what the bill Demuth is co-authoring proposes.