Members of Minnesota Congressional Delegation: FEMA Agrees to Review Procedures that led to 2019 Spring Storm Damage Underestimation

WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN), and Representatives Jim Hagedorn (R-MN-1), Angie Craig (D-MN-2), Dean Phillips (D-MN-3), Tom Emmer (R-MN-6), and Collin Peterson (D-MN-7) announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has committed to a review of the information sharing practices that led to the 2019 spring storm damage underestimation. FEMA also committed to allow as much additional time as needed during future assessments to gather damage information that will improve the cost estimation process so that “sticker shock” can be avoided. These commitments from FEMAcome in response to a letter the delegation sent earlier this month calling on FEMA to provide additional financial assistance and review procedures that led to 2019 spring storm damage underestimation.

Historic snowfall, ice, and melting snow caused widespread flooding and significant infrastructure damage across the state in the spring of 2019, affecting at least 51 counties and four tribal nations. After a preliminary damage assessment of $40 million, FEMA later finalized the damage assessment at $76 million, almost twice the original assessment and requiring additional state resources.

“Minnesotans are resilient and have demonstrated their ability to come together to respond to and recover from weather disasters through partnerships with the federal government,” Klobuchar said. “I am pleased that FEMA has committed to reviewing their information sharing practices, including extending the assessment period length and cost estimation process that led to the 2019 spring storm damage underestimation. We must work together to help ensure that similar situations can be prevented in the future.”

“Minnesotans are strong people who help each other overcome adversity,” Smith said. “And while people in our communities have worked hard to rebuild and recover after 2019’s historic flooding, there’s still work left to do. FEMA’s initial underestimate of the flood damage caused budget problems in Minnesota. I am glad that FEMA has committed to a better process going forward.”

“The response from Minnesotans in responding to these disasters and helping their friends and neighbors has been inspiring. However, due to an initial underestimation of the damages, the burden was not eased on our state’s families and communities. I am pleased that FEMA is willing to work with our bipartisan delegation to review the procedures that led to this shortcoming and ensure that we can respond in a better and more efficient manner to future instances of severe weather,” Hagedorn said.

I’m humbled by the strength our communities have shown in their recovery efforts from the devastating floods last year,” Craig said. “I’ve seen the impact from recent weather disasters on our roads, bridges and neighborhoods, many of which are still recovering. I’m reassured to learn that FEMA will be deeply examining the process that resulted in a delay of recovery funds getting back to Minnesota’s Second Congressional District and I look forward to working toward permanently improving the process for all communities.”

“Minnesotans know that we are most effective when we work together,” Phillips said. “I am pleased that FEMAhas committed to reviewing and improving its disaster estimation process. I will continue to work with our bipartisan delegation and the federal government to protect our constituents, and it is my hope that moving forward we will have a more accurate idea of the funds and resources necessary to respond to future storm damage.”

“I am pleased to see FEMA’s response and renewed efforts to partner with Minnesota officials to best serve those affected by flooding and recent weather disasters. These changes will serve our state and allow for those in need to receive the resources necessary to recover. This is an important step forward for both the State of Minnesota and their partnership with the Administration. I applaud my colleagues, FEMA, and Governor Walz for our shared effort to best serve those affected,” Emmer said.

“As concern is already rising that the spring of 2020 may bring more high water to places that still haven’t fully recovered, I’m glad that FEMA has committed to improve its disaster estimation process,” Peterson said.

The letter response from FEMA can be found HERE.

In May 2019, the delegation sent a letter urging the Administration to issue a Major Disaster Declaration to assist communities in Minnesota that are working hard to recover from severe weather including historic snowfall, ice, and melting snow that caused widespread flooding and significant infrastructure damage across the state. The request was approved in June 2019.