I-35W bridge victims may now get $20,000 in relief

  • Article by: PAM LOUWAGIE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 7, 2008 - 10:38 PM

The $10,000 cap on emergency funds for victims was doubled in order to help those with severe hardships. The money will come from a $1 million hardship relief account set aside in November to help bridge victims with short-term needs.

Bridge collapse survivors in dire financial need got access on Thursday to more emergency money -- up to $20,000 per person -- to make up for lost income due to the disaster.

The money will come from a $1 million hardship relief account set aside in November to help bridge victims with short-term needs while state lawmakers consider options for a broader compensation fund.

More than $900,000 still remains in the emergency fund after initial claims were processed, so Gov. Tim Pawlenty's office announced Thursday that state administrators are doubling the $10,000 maximum that was previously made available.

"It turns out that the immediate need for these kinds of funds was less than we had budgeted for," said Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, one of the lawmakers who announced the fund in November. "So we have the funds available to help those who are most in need of this."

More than $70,000 was paid to 13 claimants to help with immediate hardships, including four who have received $10,000. Others are nearing that amount after getting weekly payments from the fund, Latz said.

By releasing the emergency funds, the state is not admitting liability, and money given out under this program will be deducted from any future recovery from the state.

Funded by highway and general-fund money normally reserved for tort claims, the disbursements cover only lost wages not compensated from other sources, such as insurance, workers' compensation or charitable organizations.

When the Legislature convenes next week, lawmakers will consider other proposals for compensating the families of the 13 people who died in last August's collapse, as well as the 145 people who were injured.

Latz and Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, have made proposals for a bridge fund that would allow victims to receive more than the state's current liability limits -- $300,000 per person and $1 million total for everyone who sues over an incident.

Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102

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