Disaster aid plan won’t require special session

A special session of the Minnesota Legislature to provide disaster aid to storm and flood-damaged counties now appears unlikely.

Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter and Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Kris Eide outlined a strategy for addressing the disaster assistance in a memo to Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders, and there’s no mention of a special session.

The two officials contend that the $3 million disaster contingency fund created last spring will be sufficient to start reimbursing communities. They said they will then present a comprehensive disaster budget to the Legislature when the 2015 session begins in January.

In recent years, lawmakers were routinely called back to St. Paul following stormy summers to authorize various amounts of disaster relief.

“Since county reimbursements must go through a rigorous FEMA review before any federal payments are made, draws on the existing state funds will occur over many months,” Schowalter and Eide wrote.

Damage assessments for 37 counties total nearly $41 million, with the federal government covering 75 percent of the costs.

The state share is $10.2 million. But that number could change pending the outcome of Dakota County’s appeal of the federal decision that left it out of the disaster declaration.

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