No special session needed for state flood aid

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It won't be necessary for state lawmakers to meet in a special session to cover repair costs from the severe June flooding.

Two top state officials say a $3 million contingency fund, and advances from the state Department of Revenue, will be enough to pay for early rounds of disaster payments to cities and counties in Minnesota, the Associated Press reports.

Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter and Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Kris Eide developed a budget plan for covering the state's share of disaster aid, and sent it to Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders Tuesday.

The damage to public infrastructure in 37 counties that were declared federal disaster areas totals more than $40 million. The federal government will cover 75 percent of the cost, and the state will pay for the rest, which is about $10.2 million.

Two other counties are still hoping to be added to the disaster area, so the damage estimates may go higher.

Oddly enough, it's the red tape involved that allows the state to get by with the $3 million pot of money for the rest of the year.

“Since county reimbursements must go through a rigorous FEMA review before any federal payments are made, draws on the existing state funds will occur over many months,” Schowalter and Eide wrote in their memo, according to MPR News.

The staggered nature of the payments means the Legislature will likely be back in session in January before any more money will need to be set aside.

Schowalter and Eide said they will present a complete disaster budget proposal to lawmakers at that time.

The $3 million contingency fund was approved in the last session to address just these sorts of situations, because it was often necessary for lawmakers to return to the Capitol to act on disaster relief requests due to summer storms, MPR News reports.

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