With headlines like this one from the Post Bulletin (In counties without hazard plans, flooded businesses can only wait) striking a discouraging note for business and homeowners stricken by last August's flood waters, Minnesota's U.S. Senators and Congressman Walz have asked that FEMA get aid to flood victims.
Klobuchar, Coleman and Walz Urge Federal Government to Cut Red Tape to get Flood Disaster Aid to SE Minnesota
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Norm Coleman, along with First District Congressman Tim Walz, today urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to waive a paperwork requirement that could otherwise cause serious delays in the delivery of much-needed flood disaster assistance to southeastern Minnesota.
In a letter to FEMA's Administrator R. David Paulison, Klobuchar, Coleman and Walz asked for a waiver of the federal requirement that local communities must first submit a "local hazard mitigation plan" before receiving funds under the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. (The text of the letter is below.)
Five of the flood-damaged counties in southeastern Minnesota do not have approved plans. The counties affected are: Dodge, Fillmore, Houston, Olmsted and Wabasha. Creating these plans is detailed and time-consuming, with estimates that it can take up to a year for preparation, submission and approval.
"Communities, businesses and families need flood relief right now, not a year from now," said Klobuchar. "FEMA's regional administrator has the authority to cut the red tape, and that's what we're asking him to do. Federal paperwork should not be allowed to delay the real work of recovery and rebuilding from this disaster."
"We simply cannot allow government bureaucracy to stand in the way of helping those who need it most," said Coleman. "I've seen firsthand the devastation this flood caused in these communities and these grants will help prevent future disasters from ravaging these communities again."
"By insisting that these plans be filed before they release federal funds, FEMA officials are preventing communities from cleaning up and moving on," said Congressman Tim Walz. "I hope that FEMA will recognize the common sense solution to this situation, which is to provide both mitigation funds and technical support so these counties can simultaneously clean up and complete the required paperwork."
FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program provides funds to state and local governments following a major disaster declaration. These funds may be used for projects that will reduce or eliminate losses from future disasters. Funds may be used for flood-control projects to protect either public or private property. Funds may also be used to purchase property that has already suffered damage or is at risk of further flood damage.
To be eligible for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, local governments must first have submitted "local hazard mitigation plans" to FEMA before federal funds will be distributed. However, FEMA is permitted to grant a waiver so a community can apply for the disaster funding, as long as a FEMA-approved plan is completed within one year.
In August, severe storms caused extensive flooding in southeasternMinnesota. Ultimately, President Bush issued a federal disaster declaration for Dodge, Fillmore, Houston, Jackson, Steele, Olmsted, Wabasha and Winona counties. The disaster declaration makes these counties eligible for federal assistance.
Below is the text of the letter sent today by Klobuchar, Coleman and Walz:
December 18, 2007
The Honorable R. David Paulison
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street S.W.
Washington, DC 20472
Dear Administrator Paulison:
As you know, parts of southeastern Minnesota were devastated by flooding this past August. The assistance provided by FEMA in the aftermath of that tragedy has been invaluable, and will continue to be as these communities rebuild.
At the moment, several counties included in the President's federal disaster declaration are applying for assistance under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). Unfortunately, five of these counties:
Houston, Fillmore, Olmsted, Wabasha, and Dodge, will likely face serious delays in receiving assistance under this program because they are still developing local Hazard Mitigation Plans. Residents should have all the assistance possible to help rebuild their homes and businesses without delay. To that end, we ask that you consider granting a waiver to enable these counties to apply for HMGP disaster funding while they continue to develop their Hazard Mitigation Plans.
We thank you for your assistance.
The letter was signed by Coleman, Klobuchar, and Walz.