Disappointed by the denial of federal help for victims of the May 22 tornado, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is going directly to the president for help.

Rybak and state officials learned Tuesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied Minnesota's request for individual assistance to homeowners, renters and businesses affected by the tornado. In its decision, the agency said "the damage from this event to dwellings was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the combined capabilities of the State, affected local governments and voluntary agencies to warrant the designation of Individual Assistance for Hennepin County."

In search of other options for federal help, Rybak called the White House on Tuesday. The response: an invitation to meet with President Obama and other federal officials on Monday to discuss possibilities for federal help for the tornado-torn North Minneapolis neighborhood, which has one of the city's highest concentrations of poverty and unemployment. The request for individual assistance from FEMA was meant to help homeowners, renters and businesses lacking insurance to cover the damage.

"One thing we've learned in the recovery process is that it is very difficult to win individual assistance from FEMA," Rybak said. "While we're disappointed, our job now is to move forward and evaluate all our options for getting the greatest amount of help, including financial help, to the greatest number of people as quickly as possible."

State officials said Tuesday they are analyzing all options, including appealing FEMA's decision. An appeal must be filed within 30 days.

The tornado seriously damaged an estimated 274 homes and businesses. Declaring a disaster in Hennepin and Anoka counties where the tornado hit, Obama authorized federal funding to cover losses estimated at $16.33 million to publicly owned property but not private property.

Federal assistance to individuals wasn't awarded to cover damage from the 2010 tornado in Wadena, Minn., which wiped out more than 200 homes and businesses. Nor was it authorized in the aftermath of heavy rains and floods last September that damaged an estimated 600 dwellings across about 150 miles of southern Minnesota, destroying all of the businesses in downtown Zumbro Falls. It was granted for damages from the 2009 Red River Valley floods and the 2007 flash floods in southeastern Minnesota, which killed eight people.

Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788