Yesterday, I attended a meeting in Faribault to talk with local and state officials about recovery efforts and state aid as a result of last week’s heavy rainfall. The flooded wastewater treatment facility in Faribault is still a concern, but progress is being made by the hour. At the time of the meeting, raw sewage was still emptying into the Cannon River, which runs downstream to Northfield.
I asked the MPCA and other officials at the the meeting what the people of Northfield needed to know. They are monitoring the water quality daily and so far have found that the sewage is diluting properly. They still recommended that residents stay out of the water and refrain from eating fish from the river for now.
Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are in the process of assessing the damage across the region. It is expected that the damage sustained will meet the threshold for a federal disaster, which will trigger significant federal aid.
The State Legislature will likely be called into a Special Session sometime between October 7 – 12 to approve the matching state aid for flood relief.
The State Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) will provide help for both workers and businesses that have been impacted by the flood. While the details are yet to be worked out, there are a couple of possibilities. First, forgiveable loans in the range of $5,000 – $10,000 may be available to businesses to help them get back on their feet. These will be managed through the Southern Minnesota Initiative Fund, and may be available soon.
DEED will also ask the Legislature to approve allocating Minnesota Investment Fund dollars to local units of government to be used for flood recovery efforts. It is estimated as many as 1,000 people lost work because of the floods. If this applies to you, it is in your best interest to file for unemployment benefits as soon as possible. You can either visit our local Workforce Center, or file online. It is recommended you file by midnight tonight for benefits for this week, but some leeway may be given considering the late notice.
The Office of Homeland Security is expected to file an application for Disaster Unemployment benefits. There are several benefits if this is enacted. The waiting week for workers will be waived, allowing laid off employees to collect benefits from day one. This type of unemployment may also apply to independent contractors and self-employed workers, who typically are not eligible for unemployment. Disaster unemployment also holds the employer harmless by not increasing their unemployment rate.
It is also possible that a National Emergency Grant will be enacted, allowing the state to hire unemployed people to help clean-up flood damage at public locations.
The community response has already been so impressive, but Rice County is still looking for volunteers to help clean up. For more information, you can visit this state website, or the Rice County website.
If you have any questions at all about the flood response, please contact me at 651-296-7065.