Cass doesn't qualify for FEMA aid
WALKER — The public infrastructure damage tally for the July 2 wind and rain storm that hit Beltrami, Itasca and Cass Counties so far is not high enough to qualify for FEMA funding, Kerry Swenson, Cass County emergency services director, told Cass commissioners Tuesday.
Cass is one of several northern Minnesota counties FEMA has approved for public infrastructure funding from a June heavy rain storm.
Kerry said FEMA requires that a state must have at least $7 million in public infrastructure damage losses to qualify for a 75 percent federal repair reimbursement. Additionally, each qualifying county must meet a damage level, which is $96,000 for Cass and its cities and towns.
The state’s losses in the June storm exceeded $7 million, but data collected so far show losses in July were only $6 million.
The failure of the state to qualify means it won’t help that the county’s July losses exceeded $96,000, Swenson said. In the July storm, the city of Cass Lake alone had $70,000 damages.
While the June downpour caused widespread flooding from north central counties to the state’s east border where the city of Duluth had major flooding, the July storm primarily hit only Cass, Beltrami and Itasca Counties, Swenson said.
Additionally, much of the July damage was from downed trees. Swenson said counties cannot count lost timber value. They only can count damage to roads and other infrastructure, he explained.
Also, counties seeking FEMA disaster assistance cannot add damages Indian tribal governments within their boundaries sustain. Indian tribes must seek reimbursement directly from the federal government and not in combination with counties, cities and states, Swenson said.
The Leech Lake Reservation overlaps a broad area in the three counties the July storm hit.
Townships that have submitted records on their losses and will be included in Cass’s approved FEMA reimbursement request for the June storm are Blind Lake, Bungo, Crooked Lake, Homebrook, May, Moose Lake, Trelipe, Wabedo and Woodrow.
Swenson urged any towns or cities which sustained damage in either the June or July storm to contact him as soon as possible to provide their documentation. He can be reached by calling (218) 547-7437 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, the county board voted to send a letter to the state legislature seeking a 25 percent state match for the FEMA funding for the June storm, for assistance for the July storm which did not qualify for FEMA funding and for a May storm in which Cass had another $200,000 damage in the form of washed out roads in the southern part of the county.
Only Cass and Crow Wing Counties suffered significant infrastructure damage in the May storm.
Administrator Robert Yochum said he believes legislators began meeting Tuesday to begin planning a state disaster relief bill for a special legislative session.