Sen. Nelson Drafts Legislation to Address Accountability in State Disaster Aid
Disaster can strike at any time. This summer 19 Minnesota counties faced destruction from natural disasters. Much of the Midwest and Great Plains states have suffered from a summer-long drought this year, and Hurricane Isaac is pummeling Gulf Coast states right now, and causing billions of dollars in flood damage. It’s common sense for a state not to wait for a disaster to hit but to be prepared.
During the recent Special Session of the Minnesota Legislature to fund disaster aid, Sen. Carla Nelson was the only senator to have additional legislation introduced.
In March 2012 the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) issued a program evaluation on our state’s efforts to help in natural disaster recovery. Some recommendations were included in the pre-agreed-upon bill between the Governor and legislative leaders. Some were not.
“I took to heart the report that our Legislative Auditor filed earlier this year. I was glad to see the recommendations that were included in the bill planned for introduction in the special session but was concerned about those that were omitted.”
Sen. Nelson’s legislation addresses the need for clarity and consistency in determining whether the state should pay the full share of FEMA required matching funds for federal aid and the local share for flood- hazard mitigation grants. Nelson’s bill also seeks clarity for when state recovery funding should be available for non-qualified FEMA disasters. The bill also calls for better use of existing federal, state and local reporting mechanisms to evaluate and improve recovery activities.
“We must have a better defined framework for state disaster-recovery funding so it is clear in what situations the state bears responsibility. This will provide consistency and will allow cities, counties, and individuals to know what type of assistance and to what degree the state may help with recovery costs in the event of a disaster,” Nelson said.
“While we cannot predict the face of future disasters we can be sure they will occur and it is difficult to set clear criteria on state disaster-recovery funding in the middle of a disaster. These types of policy discussions must occur before our next disaster strikes. That is why I introduced SF3. Defining the state’s role in disaster-relief funding is important not only for the local governments but it is also our responsibility to the taxpayer. Over the last 15 years, Minnesota has appropriated more than $650 million in disaster aid,” Senator Nelson added.