FEMA: State would need new evidence to overturn aid denialby Conrad Wilson, Minnesota Public Radio
The Federal Emergency Management Agency says that Minnesota will have to present compelling new information if it's to be successful in appealing the decision to deny individual assistance to flood victims.
According to FEMA, state and local governments should be able to help private property owners recover from damage in last month's flooding -- without federal support.
The denial of aid disappointed state and local officials, who welcomed Gov. Mark Dayton's decision to appeal FEMA's verdict. But the state isn't saying whether it has anything new to present to the federal government.
Richard Gifford works on external affairs for FEMA. Right now, he's based in Duluth and says the agency considered everything from how the flooding affected low-income families and the elderly, to insurance coverage, the availability of private assistance, the overall trauma to the region as well as the concentration of damage.
"That's the main thing," Gifford said, "if the state can handle it, then the federal government isn't needed."
By both the state's and FEMA's accounts, the disaster review process was thorough. In order for the state to win its appeal, Gifford says, it will have to present the agency with new information, such as examples of damage that hasn't yet been assessed.
"Hopefully, they come up with something else," Gifford said. "It has to be new or additional information that we had not considered before."
The Department of Public Safety, which oversaw the state's original request to the federal government, wouldn't make anyone available to comment on what new information it might have that it can turn over to FEMA.
Regardless of what the state might have to show FEMA, Dayton says he disagreed with agency's decision.
"I can't imagine how anybody could go up and look at the devastation up in Duluth and the surrounding area," he said, "and not realize how many people who understandably didn't have flood insurance because this has never happened before and lost everything, and just tell them this is not a disaster justifying the federal government's involvement, to me is just really cruel and wrong."
Dayton says the FEMA staff based in Chicago that did the field assessments made a positive recommendation for private property aid. But he says that decision was overturned when it got to Washington, where he says there are budget pressures on the agency.
"I'd like to find out more about this internal disagreement within the agency and see if that's something we can utilize," he said.
FEMA is providing public disaster assistance in the region to help with the rebuilding of roads and sewers. The agency will pay for 75 percent of the estimated $108 million in damages.
MPR's Tom Scheck contributed to this report.
- All Things Considered, 07/26/2012, 5:20 p.m.