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Minnesota Congressional Delegation Urges FEMA to Provide Additional Financial Assistance and Review Procedures that led to 2019 Spring Storm Damage Underestimation

Historic snowfall, ice, and melting snow caused widespread flooding and significant infrastructure damage across the state in the spring of 2019, affecting at least 51 counties and four tribal nations

After a preliminary damage assessment of $40 million, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) later finalized the damage assessment at $76 million, almost twice the original assessment and requiring additional state resources

WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN), and Representatives Jim Hagedorn (R-MN-1), Angie Craig (D-MN-2), Dean Phillips (D-MN-3), Betty McCollum (D-MN-4), Ilhan Omar (D-MN-5), Tom Emmer (R-MN-6), Collin Peterson (D-MN-7), and Pete Stauber (R-MN-8) urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide additional financial assistance to the state and undertake a full review of the procedures that it relied on in developing its estimate of the damages from severe weather and widespread flooding in the spring of 2019 in Minnesota. Historic snowfall, ice, and melting snow caused widespread flooding and significant infrastructure damage across the state in the spring of 2019, affecting at least 51 counties and four tribal nations. After a preliminary damage assessment of $40 million, FEMA later finalized the damage assessment at $76 million, almost twice the original assessment and requiring additional state resources.

“Minnesotans are resilient and have demonstrated their ability to come together to respond to and recover from weather disasters through the partnership of the federal government,” the lawmakers wrote. “It is for this reason that we ask FEMA to provide additional financial assistance to the state and undertake a full review of the procedures that it relied on in developing its estimate of the damages in Minnesota so that similar situations can be prevented in the future.”

In May 2019, the delegation sent a letter urging the Administration to issue a Major Disaster Declaration to assist communities in Minnesota that are working hard to recover from severe weather including historic snowfall, ice, and melting snow that caused widespread flooding and significant infrastructure damage across the state. The request was approved in June 2019.

The full text of the letter can be found HERE and below. 

Dear Mr. Gaynor:

We write to express concerns that we have heard from Minnesota officials and constituents about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) significant underestimation in accounting for the damages and cost of recovery in the preliminary assessment for severe weather and widespread flooding in the spring of 2019 (FEMA-4442-DR). We also ask that FEMA provide additional financial assistance to the state and undertake a full review of the procedures that it relied on in developing its estimate of the damages in Minnesota so that similar situations can be prevented in the future.

After severe weather and widespread flooding in the spring of 2019 contributed to infrastructure damage in 51 counties and 4 tribal governments across the state, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz requested federal assistance to aid in the recovery. At that time, we wrote to the President in support of issuing a disaster declaration in a timely manner.

We have heard concerns that FEMA finalized the preliminary damage assessment before our communities could accurately inventory the damage caused to their infrastructure. Since that time, the actual cost of recovery has increased from FEMA’s $40 million estimate to $76 million. The State of Minnesota has already allocated nearly $10 million from the State Disaster Assistance Contingency Account to fund its 25 percent share and now needs to cover an additional $9 million of unanticipated recovery costs. This underestimation of damages by nearly half the total cost has contributed to a deficiency in the State Disaster Assistance Contingency Account and uncertainty surrounding the state’s ability to provide emergency funding for future severe weather events prior to the 2020 state legislative session.

Minnesotans are resilient and have demonstrated their ability to come together to respond to and recover from weather disasters through the partnership of the federal government. It is for this reason that we ask FEMA to provide additional financial assistance to the state and undertake a full review of the procedures that it relied on in developing its estimate of the damages in Minnesota so that similar situations can be prevented in the future.

Thank you for your attention to this request.

Sincerely, 

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