FEMA rejects request for aid to individual tornado victims

FEMA agent Deborah Bivens
FEMA agent Deborah Bivens documents some of the tornado damage in north Minneapolis on May 26, 2011.
MPR Photo

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied Minnesota's request for individual assistance to victims of last month's tornado that touched down in and around Minneapolis.

FEMA officials say they denied the request for federal individual assistance because the agency determined that the state of Minnesota has enough resources to help property owners and renters.

FEMA spokeswoman Holly Stephens says the decision was also based on the amount of volunteer help that is available to victims of the storm.

"There were a lot of volunteer agencies that came forward and were able to provide immediate needs of the community in terms of food, clothing, immediate shelter, that kind of thing," she said.

Mayor R.T. Rybak released a statement saying he was disappointed in FEMA's rejection of the request.

"One thing we've learned in the recovery process is that it is very difficult to win individual assistance from FEMA," he said. "Our job now is to move forward and evaluate all our options for getting the greatest amount of help, including financial help, to the greatest number of people as quickly as possible."

Rybak has been invited to the White House on Monday to meet with President Obama and federal officials to explore all options for federal assistance to North Minneapolis.

Last week President Obama declared Anoka and Hennepin counties disaster areas following the May 22 tornado. That declaration will send money to state and local governments -- and some non-profit organizations -- for repairs to facilities damaged by the storm.

Preliminary assessments put the damage to public infrastructure at $16.3 million.

Gov. Mark Dayton has 30 days to appeal FEMA's decision.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.