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FEMA won't help homeowners

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied a request to provide individual assistance for victims of September's flooding in southern Minnesota, although public help is available.

Zumbro Falls Mayor Alan VanDeWalker said this morning that decision means his city may lose about 20 homes. Without money available to repair or rebuild, many homeowners will opt for a flood mitigation buyouts from the city available from public money, he said. The buyout requires the property to be converted back to grass.

"We're going to have a lot of empty lots," VanDeWalker said.

However, a federal disaster declaration for 21 counties in southern Minnesota means help is available to repair publicly owned facilities and roads. Also, Gov. Pawlenty has applied for a Small Business Administration Disaster Declaration for 11 counties, including Dodge, Goodhue, Olmsted and Wabasha, to help qualify individuals and businesses for SBA help. Finally, the Legislature will have a special session Monday to consider an $80 million flood relief bill.

What does this mean? A quick guide:


Homeowners:The proposed state flood relief bill includes $4 million for the Quick Start program, which provides forgivable, no-interest loans to homeowners who need to rebuild or repair their dwellings. And if the SBA disaster declaration is granted, the agency will have low-interest disaster loans available.

Businesses:Besides SBA help, the state's flood bill includes $10 million in grants or loans available for flood-affected groups and businesses, and another $4 million for farmers.

The government:FEMA’s Public Assistance Grant Program will pay for debris removal, and the repair or replacement of damaged publicly owned facilities. The state's proposed flood relief bill includes $15 million to fix highways and roads; $14 million for the Department of Natural Resources to fix and clean up waterways and hazard mitigation; and $10 million to acquire easements from landowners on marginal lands to protect soil and water quality and support fish and wildlife habitat.

Where to start:Three disaster recovery centers, including one at the Mazeppa Community Center, can help answer questions. They are open from 1 to 7 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday through Monday. The other centers are in Owatonna and Truman.

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