Updated: 2:02 p.m.
The federal government has denied a request from the state of Minnesota for a disaster declaration and accompanying financial support, to help clean up and repair fire damage from unrest following the police killing of George Floyd.
Gov. Tim Walz's office said it received the denial on Friday, eight days after Walz had submitted the request. A Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesperson said the agency had determined the damage was something local and state governments could handle on their own.
In a letter to President Trump on July 2, Walz had noted more than $15 million in damage and cleanup costs that could be eligible for federal reimbursement.
The state has estimated total damages at more than $500 million. Hundreds of buildings were looted, damaged or destroyed by fires in the Twin Cities, primarily in Minneapolis and St. Paul, after Floyd was killed on May 25.
“The governor is disappointed that the federal government declined his request for financial support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help Minnesota rebuild after civil unrest damaged public infrastructure and caused extensive fire damage in the wake of George Floyd’s death," Walz's spokesperson Teddy Tschann said in a statement. "As we navigate one of the most difficult periods in our state’s history, we look for support from our federal government to help us through.”
In making the request for help, Walz had noted that the financial challenge had been made even harder by the impacts on the state budget from the cononavirus pandemic. A projected $1.5 billion budget surplus in February was soon wiped out by a projected $2.4 billion revenue shortfall, he wrote to in the request to President Trump via FEMA.
In a statement provided to MPR News on Saturday, a FEMA spokesperson said:
“After a thorough review of Minnesota’s request for a major disaster declaration from extensive fire damage as a result of civil unrest in late May and early June, it was determined that the impact to public infrastructure is within the capabilities of the local and state governments to recover from. The governor has 30 days to appeal that decision.”
Tschann said Walz’s office is “exploring all options.”
The federal government's denial of the request from Walz, a Democrat, came a day after Republican U.S. Rep Tom Emmer of Minnesota sent a letter to Trump and other federal officials raising questions about the request.
While not stating opposition to Minnesota receiving federal money, Emmer asked that — in the wake of Walz's request — the Trump administration "undertake a thorough and concurrent review of my state's response to the violence."
Emmer wrote that if federal money helps pay for cleanup and rebuilding, the government "has an obligation to every American — prior to the release of funding — to fully understand the events which allowed for this level of destruction to occur and ensure it never happens again."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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