WI Lawmakers Seek More Disaster Assistance For Storm Damage

By KBJR News 1

WI Lawmakers Seek More Disaster Assistance For Storm Damage

July 28, 2011 Updated Jul 28, 2011 at 4:45 PM CDT

Posted by Melissa Burlaga

Madison, WI (Northland's NewsCenter) State Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) and Representative Nick Milroy (D-South Range) are seeking an additional $2 million in state funding to replenish the Wisconsin disaster assistance program which has been depleted by damage caused by violent natural disasters.

In a letter to Governor Walker the two northern lawmakers stressed that a rash in violent storms has resulted in submission of outstanding claims between $1.75 million to $3 million that will put the disaster fund in deficit and deprive communities of state support for emergency response and clean up costs.

The State of Wisconsin provides assistance to local governments who have been forced to incur substantial costs from damage related to severe weather through the Wisconsin Disaster Assistance Fund.

The state budget provides $1 million over the next two years for the fund. “Clearly the large volume of claims demonstrates that this amount is not sufficient to pay for claims for the damage from 7 storms this year let alone pay for the outstanding claims from last year,” they said.

“Since April, seven counties in Wisconsin have been battered by straight line winds and tornadoes requiring significant emergency response and clean up costs to dozens of affected communities. Damage alone from the Independence weekend storm that blew through Burnett, Washburn and Douglas County is estimated to reach $1.8 million.”

The lawmakers stressed that local budgets are already stretched thin and they will not be left with sufficient funds to operate.

“Damage in a single Township exceeded $300,000 and it may run out of money in a matter of weeks. It is urgent for the State to replenish this fund and assure these communities of the assistance they have been promised.”

“This fund was set up to make sure that the State of Wisconsin fulfills its responsibility to help communities as they struggle to recover from natural disasters,” the lawmakers said. “We are seeking the additional funds to make certain that the State has sufficient resources to meet current and future claims.”

The lawmakers noted that the storm damage is not sufficient to warrant FEMA designation for Federal help; therefore the 70% reimbursement from the state program is the only means to seek financial help for these unforeseen costs.

The lawmakers said the willingness of the Walker Administration to provide $1 million in the State budget is recognition that the disaster assistance program is critical to assure that communities are not economically burdened by the costs of any natural disaster.

“Helping communities recover from a natural disaster is a basic function of government and local officials should be able to rely upon State government in shared responsibility toward paying for extraordinary costs that are above and beyond local control.”

The lawmakers asked that the Administration recommend the transfer of funds to the Joint Committee of Finance for consideration in the September committee session.