As I mentioned on 5x8 this morning, the people of southeastern Minnesota have good reason to wonder what's taken the Obama administration so long to declare their region a disaster area so they can get some help recovering from last month's flooding.
A special session of the Legislature was called off yesterday because the president has not yet acted.
Is the delay unusual? Unfortunately, no. Last year, for example, flooding hit Clay, Kittson, Marshall, Norman, Polk, Traverse, and Wilkin counties on March 16. It wasn't until April 9 that federal disaster relief was made available. Twenty-four days.
On June 17 and 26, tornadoes and floods hit Faribault, Freeborn, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Polk, Steele, and Wadena counties. A federal disaster declaration wasn't signed by President Obama until July 2. Fifteen days.
Down in Iowa, the disaster assistance offices that were set up after this summer's flash flooding are closing on Friday. The flooding struck around July 24. The president declared it a disaster on August 15. Twenty-two days.
But some disasters get quicker response than others. In April 2009, the crest of the Red River caused considerable damage in the Fargo-Moorhead area. The president declared it a disaster area on April 9. The river crested around March 28. Fourteen days.
The most recent flooding hit Minnesota on September 22. Gov. Pawlenty sought disaster assistance on September 23. That's 20 days.
If history is any guide -- and it often isn't -- when can the people of southeastern Minnesota expect help? Probably later this week.
There’s a lot of misinformation about flood relief in the media. A prime example is what the “assistance” pays for. All you hear in the media is that after a disaster is declared, the federal government pays 75% of the damage, and the state pays 25%. They never tell you “of what?” The state and federal funds pay for repairs to public infrastructure (roads, bridges, sewers, etc). Only in very rare cases of extraordinary damage is money appropriated to pay for damage to private property. At best, homeowners receive low interest loans to help them rebuild, and the norm is they fight it out with their insurance companies (assuming they have flood insurance).
A better question might be, “Once a bill is signed into law, how long does it take the money to get to those in need?”