Legislators are being asked at Friday's special session to approve $167.5 million in state-funded relief for the 18 counties battered by June and July storms. That's a big number.
To their credit, GOP legislative leaders helped whittle it down from the Dayton administration's original $195 million total -- not by reducing direct aid amounts, but by tapping some already appropriated funds within the 13 state agencies that share responsibility for disaster relief.
Minnesotans who still suffer sticker shock at the relief total should know that this summer's storms affected twice as many people and an area three times larger than the 2007 floods in southeastern Minnesota. Those storms ultimately cost the state $211 million in upfront funding. But about $40 million of that sum has since been reimbursed by the federal government.
A similar reimbursement is expected this time. Of $76 million designated for highway and bridge repair in the special session bill, some $60 million is expected to be eventually reimbursed by the Federal Highway Administration. A $6.8 million item for damage to DNR facilities is expected to be fully reimbursed.
Another $26 million is the required 25 percent state/local match for federal money available for repairing damaged infrastructure, such as sewers.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency declined to provide aid to homeowners. That's why the special session bill contains $12.2 million for low-interest, 20-year forgiveable "Quick Start" loans for home repairs.
Duluth Mayor Don Ness commended legislators for stepping into the breach that the federal aid denial created. He described a low-income single mother who would lose the home she's spent years remodeling without access to Quick Start money to replace her lost furnace. "This bill gives her hope," Ness said.