Editor's note: The following comes from the office of Rep. Kelby Woodard.
Minnesotans have once again come together to help our neighbors in distress. The Minnesota House on Friday approved a $167.5 million package to fund recovery efforts after high winds and caused throughout Minnesota in June and July.
Rice County is included among those set to receive aid. The bill received wide bipartisan support on its way to approval.
Rep. Kelby Woodard, R-Belle Plaine, said a set of much-needed disaster relief reforms are included in the legislation to ensure the funding is used as intended.
“We want to maximize the effectiveness of the money we are appropriating while protecting taxpayers as good stewards of their hard-earned money,” Woodard said. “Funding must be directed to recovery and rebuilding efforts and may not be diverted to additional projects. Any unused funds will be returned to the state."
Examples of reforms in the bill include:
- Any money not spent is returned to the General Fund.
- Recovery loan repayments are returned to the state for a special fund designated for future disaster relief rather than to cities and counties to spend again.
- Stricter requirements and accountability measures are in place for loans provided by the Minnesota Investment Fund.
- Minnesota Investment Fund dollars provided by the disaster relief bill can only be used for recovery, not additional economic development projects.
- Temporarily changed the budget reserve funding formula to ensure that using reserve funds for disaster relief does not impede paying back the school shift.
The total package is approximately $28 million less than the governor’s proposal.
“We still do not have a final dollar figure on damage assessments,” Woodard said. “However, it was prudent to stay with a number which more closely matches projections.
“The important thing now was to get a package in place so as much work as possible can be completed before winter. A number of homes remain inhabitable and freezing temperatures could set back recovery work and cause more long-term problems for Minnesotans impacted by these disasters.”
The Senate was simultaneously approved a companion bill and the legislation has been signed by Gov. Mark Dayton.