DULUTH, Minn. - FEMA officials toured Duluth a week after rushing flash flood waters ripped apart city streets and flooded homes in the city. It was their final stop in Minnesota after completing a 13-county tour to add up damages for federal relief consideration.
Homeland Security and Emergency Management officials with the state were with the FEMA folks every step of the way, noting that federal money will be needed in communities soon.
"Once they pay for those repairs they want reimbursement money as quickly as possible. So the sooner we can get out here and gather this information and start putting the documents together, the sooner we can reimburse money," Bill Hirti with MN's HSEM said.
Hirti says the state should be well beyond the required $7.1 million in damage required for public infrastructure money from the feds. He also says most, if not all counties surveyed, should also be in line for federal funds. Meanwhile, affected homeowners began the process of seeking disaster relief funds.
Jack Erickson, who lives in the hardest hit neighborhood in Duluth, said he was glad to hear FEMA was in town.
"It certainly helps if you can get some help. Duluth talked about $100 million damage. I don't believe Duluth can handle $100 million in damage, and I don't believe we'll ever get a road if we don't get some help," he said standing near the street that used to be in front of his home.
Erickson lives in the Fond du Lac neighborhood, which is nowhere near the Canal Park tourist destination near downtown.
"The parts of town that people are familiar with as tourists were relatively untouched by the storm, but yet our restaurants and our hotels were off by as much as 30 percent," State Senator Roger Reinert lamented before exclaiming "don't cancel your travel plans, we are open for business!"
Reinert says at a time when the city needs more general sales tax and more restaurant and beverage taxes, it's losing a big sector of the economy. Tourism is dropping following the recent coverage of the flash floods.
Reinert, a DFLer from Duluth, did say he expected lawmakers to call a special session once the federal agencies decide how much they'll send to the area.
Typically the feds pay for 75 percent of infrastructure costs and the state and municipalities pick up the rest.
"We have a history of supporting communities. Roads and bridges aren't partisan. They don't care. That's state infrastructure, and I think everybody understands that and is on board with that," the Senator concluded.
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