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Lawmakers ask Obama to expand MN tornado disaster declaration

Sens. Klobuchar and Franken and Rep. Ellison want a federal disaster declaration to cover individual property damage.

WASHINGTON — Members of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation are asking President Obama to extend a federal disaster declaration and make funds available to help repair individual’s properties after the May 21-22 storms and tornadoes that badly damaged parts of north Minneapolis.

On Tuesday, Obama declared parts of Anoka and Hennepin counties as federal disaster areas, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to distribute funds for “emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storms and flooding” and “hazard mitigation measures statewide.” Essentially, the declaration means the state can use federal money to repair public infrastructure and help prevent similar damage in the future, but it did not open up federal funds for repairing or replacing individual homes or businesses.

But two other declarations this week did, allowing parts of Illinois and Oklahoma to use federal money for “grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover” in the wake of severe weather there.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Rep. Keith Ellison wrote a letter to Obama on Wednesday asking him to extend the Minnesota declaration to cover such individual issues in the Twin Cities.

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“The area damaged by the storm is a densely populated residential neighborhood,” they wrote in the letter. “More than 600 buildings were damaged, including at least 35 homes that are now uninhabitable. This community has a high number of uninsured residents, including many renters. Without individual assistance, we fear for the ability of this community to quickly recover.”

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com