Gov. Mark Dayton isn't going to take no for an answer from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
On Wednesday, FEMA announced it was rejecting the state's request for individual assitance to homes and businesses damaged by the June floods. Within hours, Dayton directed Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Kris Eide to appeal the decision.
“I believe this was the wrong decision, and I am deeply disappointed. We will begin working on an appeal immediately,” Dayton said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
FEMA did declare a federal disaster area for the flooded region and pledged federal assistance to repair public infrastructure in 13 northern counties and three tribal nations. The individual assitance grants would have steered aid to residents and private businesses who suffered damages or losses not covered by insurance.
But FEMA usually reserves those grants for disasters that cause serious damage to more than 500 homes, and the state's own estimate fell short of that tally by about 171 homes. So Wednesday's announcement didn't come as much of a surprise to Duluth homeowner Dick Vitullo, who watched nine inches of floodwater soak into the home he shares with his wife, Perry.
“I really didn’t expect FEMA to do anything,” he said. Instead, he’s focusing on the building permits that came through on Wednesday that will let the Vitullos move ahead with the $15,000 worth of repairs to their home and garage. “Now we can finally start putting things back together.”
Vitullo hopes the Legislature will be able to provide some of the assistance that the federal government could not – not for his family, but for his neighbors.
“Any monetary help (for flooded homeowners) would be fine. But I would rather see it go to people who are not as well-off as we are,” said Vitullo, a retiree. “I would rather see any help go to people who really need it. We’re going to be fine.”